By BROOKE WANSER
Williamson, Inc. Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 5th anniversary on Tuesday evening at 302 Innovation Drive, an office space where guests received a 360-degree view of Williamson County.
President and Chief Executive Officer Matt Largen opened the evening, which included by announcing new officers and board members and recognizing those who had contributed.
Williamson, Inc. was formed through the combination of existing chambers of commerce, including the Williamson County/Franklin Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates, and the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce.
In his speech, Largen quoted the charter document of the Heritage Foundation, which celebrated 50 years of preservation work on Sunday.
“In the forthcoming years, Franklin and Williamson County will be challenged by the many forces of change which will affect physical environment in many ways,” he read, continuing on to read how population increases would bring a need for more housing, business properties and transportation utilities.
“These trends are already in motion and their impact must be anticipated and planned for,” he finished. “Does that sound familiar?” he said. The crowd murmured assent.
— Franklin Home Page (@franklinhomepg) November 15, 2017
Largen spoke about the thriving economic climate. He said that more than 6,500 businesses are located in Williamson County, and within the past 5 years, Williamson, Inc. has taken part in 343 ribbon-cuttings.
He also credited community leadership with foresight and involvement, and asked attendees to stand if they had been a part of one of many Williamson Inc. initiatives he listed. By the end of the list, the whole room was standing.
Largen spoke about the recent vote on a county sales tax initiative that will reach voters early next year. He urged the crowd to vote in favor of the sales tax increase, which would help fund a growing school system. “A ‘yes’ vote means we will continue investing in our children and in our schools,” he said, before turning over the microphone to the keynote speaker.
— Williamson, Inc. (@williamson_inc) November 15, 2017
Mars Petcare President Mark Johnson, who is originally from the United Kingdom, said he has lived in Franklin for three years.
“We are a small, family-run business,” he joked of the company, which employs more than 100,000 people across the world.
Johnson spoke about purpose, quoting Mark Twain. “The two most important days in life are the day you’re born and the day you discover the reason why.”
He continued, “Finding purpose in business needs to be a core facet, I would argue, of anything companies and organizations do. Because when you find that purpose, it unleashes an unbelievable potential in your organizations.”
Johnson spoke about investment in the community, mentioning that Mars’ employees have service days at local shelters.
He also spoke about the company’s $110 million global innovation center in Thompson’s Station, where they conduct research and divert products from the U.S. market.
Johnson said the company plans to move into their new headquarters in the nearby Ovation development in 2019. “We want to make this the most pet-friendly office in the U.S.,” he said, which will include dog parks outside and refreshment centers.
He left the crowd with a question: “What is your purpose for your business? What is it that’s going to make you and your associates jump out of bed every morning, wanting to go to work?”