Bill Comer and Roland Segroves will retire from the Industrial Board of Coffee County in December. Their last day of service will be Dec. 12, at which time nominees for their replacements are expected to be named.
Comer, whose final term representing rural Coffee County ends next month, started serving on the industrial board about 20 years ago. He said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve.
“I started in June of 1999,” Comer said. “I’m going to miss being able to have an impact on the economic future in the area.”
He stressed the importance of the board, which works to promote industry in Coffee County.
The board’s role is crucial because of the impact it has on the economy and creating jobs, resulting from the new industries locating in the area, as well as from the expansion of the existing businesses, said Comer.
The industrial board recruits industries and maintains relationships with companies located in the industrial parks within Coffee County.
The five parks the board oversees are Manchester Industrial Park, Coffee County Interstate Industrial Park, Coffee County Joint Industrial Park, Tullahoma Industrial Park and Tullahoma Business Airpark.
Comer is thankful and proud to have been involved in recruiting several companies over the years that have had a positive impact on the community.
One of those industries, said Comer, is Fischer Tool & Die, a full service die-cast tooling solutions provider and precision machining company. The company is located at the Joint Industrial Park.
Comer also considers recruiting Newell Rubbermaid Inc., an ink facility at the Joint Industrial Park, a great success for the board.
When Great Lakes Cheese opened its doors at the Manchester Industrial Park, it brought numerous jobs and had a positive effect on the local economy, as well, said Comer.
“Those three industries, in particular, were a great addition to the local area economy,” Comer said.
Comer said that success happens when organizations and individuals have the common goal of improving the area.
“You have to stay active with the agencies within the state that get us in touch with the prospects, and you have to have good relationships with them,” Comer said.
The industrial board also has to work well with the three governing bodies within the county: the City of Tullahoma, the City of Manchester and Coffee County, said Comer.
“Those are the three governing bodies that will provide funding, and they are the ones that are going to be the beneficiaries from what the board is doing,” Comer said. “You have to maintain good relationships with the three entities, and you have to work hard to help them work together as a whole. Anything good that happens in Coffee County is good for the entire county.”
Thinking ahead and providing the necessary infrastructure is also crucial, Comer added.
“You have to have the infrastructure available,” he said. “If you don’t, when an opportunity comes along, you are not a competitor.”
“You have to think ahead,” Comer said. “You have to look for things that are prohibiting the industries from coming in the future. If there are any holes in the infrastructure that need to be filled, you need to have a plan to take care of that.”
While bringing new companies to the area is important, Comer said the greatest economic boost in the area has come from the growth of the companies already located here.
“The major growth in employment has come from expansion of existing industries,” Comer said. “A good example of that is VIAM.”
VIAM Manufacturing, Inc., which manufactures floor mats, truck liners, and other non-woven fabric auto accessories, selected the Coffee County Interstate Industrial Park in 1998 and initially leased a 95,000-square-foot facility located on 10 acres.
After starting operation in 1999, VIAM’s growth has included a 58,000-square-foot addition to its initial plant, the purchase of an additional 10 acres and construction of an 85,000-square-foot building which includes the company’s corporate headquarters.
An expansion in 2013 brought VIAM’s total square footage to 507,000 square feet and its workforce to nearly 500 employees.
“VIAM was just opening up when I came on the board, and they started out with zero employees,” Comer said. “Today, they five or six buildings and hundreds of employees.”
All on the same team
Segroves, a Tullahoma representative who currently serves as board chairman, is retiring ahead of the December 2020 expiration of his final term, having served for about 14 years.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with this board,” Segroves said. “I found nobody to have an agenda. Everybody was pulling for the whole county, and I like that. We work together.”
Segroves praised the board’s executive director Kimber Sharp and all employees of the department.
“We have good people working at the office,” Segroves said. “It’s been a great experience.”
To replace its two retiring members, the industrial board on Nov. 14 created a nominating committee. The committee is expected to present the names of nominees to fill the rural Coffee County and Tullahoma representative positions at the board’s next meeting, Dec. 12.
The terms of Manchester representative Brent Parsley and Tullahoma representative Cameron Newton are also set to expire in December. Both are expected to be reappointed to the board.
Elena Cawley can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.