Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate welcomes, from left, Mayor Ken Moore, Lisa Wurth, Ellie Westman Chin and Richard Herrington/ Photo by Brooke Wanser.
By BROOKE WANSER
At Franklin Tomorrow’s final panel of the year Monday morning, city leaders spoke on their predictions for next year in government, business development, real estate and tourism.
The lecture was entitled “Engage 2018: Three Things to Know for 2018.” Mayor Ken Moore kicked off the discussion with three of his top priorities for the year.
“Get Mack Hatcher bid, Start Mack Hatcher, Finish Mack Hatcher as fast as possible,” read a slide on the screen, which elicited laughs from the crowd.
Moore then moved on to another slide, this time with 14 bullet points, including items like building a new water reclamation plant, implementing suggestions from a recent downtown parking study, and receiving the results of the Southern Corridor study.
Lisa Wurth, a Benchmark realtor and the past president of the Williamson County Association of Realtors, discussed some of the trends in real estate.
“We’re going to see a continued appreciation on property values,” Wurth said. Although, she noted it would likely slow a bit due to the rapid growth over the past few years, rising until 2020.
She mentioned a hot topic in the county: affordable housing, which she defined as homes that cost $425,000 and lower. “We’re going to continue to see a pressure, because it just can’t be built fast enough and there are so many people looking for housing in that category,” she said.
“The referendum on the sales tax, from a real estate perspective, we feel like is a good thing,” Wurth said of the referendum to raise sales taxes to help fund schools. “The pressure for more funding always comes at the price of property owners,” she said.
Regarding the federal tax reform bill, Wurth said, “it’s not a ‘sky is falling’ situation.” However, she did discuss how it might affect the housing market. Limiting deductions for sales tax write-offs and limiting capital gains exceptions were two changes Wurth mentioned. “That [current capital gains] continually allows for a deduction for people who acquire capital gains in their properties, which encourages people to own their properties and invest more rapidly.”
Ellie Westman Chin, the president and chief executive officer of the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, spoke about the county’s booming tourism industry, which saw 1.43 million visitors in 2016, a 36 percent increase over five years.
She spoke of the desire to draw a “cultural traveler,” someone who wants to come and learn about the county’s history and art.
“They come in, they stay longer, and they spend more money,” she said. The Harpeth Square hotel project, Westman Chin said, will create a new opportunity to capture travelers who want to stay in the heart of historic downtown.
The newly created county sports authority, Westman Chin said, will help the draw in a more diverse group of tourists for sporting events.
“We are set up and ready to go to host sporting events,” she said, citing hotels and attractions as a boon to travelers. “If we can bring our sports facilities up to speed with the infrastructure we already have in place, I think we can fill every weekend with the hotels in this county.”
Westman Chin formerly worked with the Nashville Sports Council, which has worked to develop the Nashville sports scene.
Richard Herrington is the chief executive officer of Franklin Synergy Bank, and the newly named chair of the board of Williamson, Inc. Chamber of Commerce.
He spoke highly of the city’s economic health, which includes a AAA bond rating. “We’re better than the US government,” he said jokingly.
“The numbers paint a really good picture of what’s going on in Williamson County and Middle Tennessee,” Herrington said.
Those numbers include Nashville’s metro ranking as the 13th most affordable city in the US and 6th among the nation‘s top cities for real estate investing for 2017. It also includes Williamson County’s status as the wealthiest and fastest-growing county in Tennessee.
Matt Largen, the president and chief executive officer of Williamson Inc., spoke briefly of the sales tax referendum, again urging attendees to vote in favor of the sales tax increase to fund schools.
He called Williamson County Schools a “regional asset,” comparing the system with Memphis’ airport and Savannah, Georgia’s deepwater port. “Our school system is the economic foundation,” he said.
“I believe this is the single most important thing that’s going to happen this year… whether this resolution passes.”
Franklin Tomorrow partnered with Graceworks Ministries in a toy drive at the event; gifts will be donated through the Manger Program at Church of the City on Murfreesboro Road.
FrankTalks are held on the second Monday of every month, and the public is invited to attend. Franklin Tomorrow is an organization focused on engaging the community on questions of growth and other community issues.