Matt Blois

Matt Blois

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Williamson County business owners tell me how the coronavirus pandemic has hurt the companies they worked so hard to build

It’s been hard to listen. In one week in March, more than 94,000 Tennesseans applied for unemployment. Last month, new business starts dropped to the lowest level in a decade. Many business owners are hoping to get some relief from a recent federal stimulus package.  

But entrepreneurs in Williamson County have a history of bouncing back. 

In April 2009, Williamson Inc. CEO Matt Largen gave a talk at the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. In his notes, he highlighted some bleak economic indicators at the national level — stock market volatility, a weak housing market and declining consumer spending — but he also pointed to signs of an incipient recovery in Williamson County.

In the midst of the recession, business license filings in the county increased. Business starts jumped by 200% between December 2007 and December 2008. They continued to increase steadily though 2017.

Between July 2008 and July 2009, Williamson County gained hundreds of jobs in the corporate headquarters and healthcare sectors. The precursor to Williamson Inc. reported 19 recruitment projects in its pipeline.

Largen stressed the importance of focusing on economic fundamentals: excellent public education and modern infrastructure. He told the chamber to prepare for a new wave of growth.  

That’s exactly what happened. Between 2009 and 2018, the size of Williamson County’s economy nearly doubled. During the same time, the workforce increased by more than 60%.

Recently, Largen said he’s hesitant to compare the economic crisis precipitated by the coronavirus to the last recession because they have such different causes. 

“In the last recession, it was the result of people being in homes they couldn't afford in the first place. There was a fundamental issue with the economy,” he said. “This isn't. Once we're back at work, I still think it'll snap back.”

I think he’s right. Business owners will get creative. Entrepreneurs will innovate, just like they did after the financial crisis. 

In fact, you’re reading a product of that recovery right now. Williamson Home Page’s founder and publisher Kelly Gilfillan started the Brentwood Home Page in 2009.

Right now, I’m telling the stories of businesses getting knocked down by the coronavirus. I want you to become a Home Page Community member now so that I have the resources to tell the stories of those businesses getting back up. 

We are one of those businesses that have been knocked down. While the number of people reading our site has gone through the roof — more than 260,000 people read the Williamson Home Page last month — the coronavirus has eviscerated ad revenues that normally support our free publication. We will get back up, too, but we’re asking for your help.   

I believe the story of Williamson County businesses rising to the occasion and finding a way to bounce back from a viral pandemic is worth telling. You’re not going to read that story in The New York Times. It won’t be on CNN. You might not even see in The Tennessean. But it’s going to be on Williamson Home Page.

Become a member by clicking here today.

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