By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

“Fake news” seems to find its way everywhere these days – even into a small town like Hartsville.

A social media post made its way around Facebook last week fanning the flames of discontent about efforts to bring a hotel to Trousdale County. Before the post was removed, some of the claims included “corruption” because land being considered belonged to certain families and that “the investors were a small chosen group.”

Speaking for myself, the hotel is a good idea. It would bring jobs and investment into our community. Since opening its Hartsville prison, CoreCivic has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars – possibly millions by now – on housing temporary employees in hotels in Lebanon. Wouldn’t that money be better spent in Trousdale County?

Chris Gregory

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Our Chamber of Commerce director, Natalie Knudsen, wrote a piece that appeared in last week’s edition of The Vidette explaining the behind-the-scenes work the Chamber has done to bring a hotel to Trousdale County.

I’d like to go a bit further into those details in this column.

First, the investors were not chosen. I have myself been invited to sit in on two meetings between potential  – note the word ‘potential,’ not ‘committed’ – investors, the Chamber and representatives of Cobblestone, the company eying Hartsville as a location. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I hardly think a member of the media would be allowed to attend such a meeting if it was intended to be kept secret!

The hotel, if it comes to fruition, will require approximately $1.3 million in local investment, whether that comes from one person or many. Also, there are certain criteria one must meet to be able to invest in such a venture.

These aren’t local criteria either; the rules are set by the federal government; namely the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A “qualified” or “accredited” investor must have a net worth of $1 million, excluding the values of one’s home; or income of at least $200,000 for the last two years ($300,000 if married) and expectation to earn the same amount going forward. I had to Google “qualified investor” to find that info; if you don’t believe me, check it for yourself!

The rules were set in place to protect people from investing and losing their life savings in unregistered securities, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a way, it’s disappointing to me. Based on the prospective rates of return on investment, if I qualified (and for the record, I don’t) I’d be an investor.

I don’t know how many people in Trousdale County meet the financial criteria, but I doubt it’s a high number. Anyone who meets that standard and wants to learn more can contact the Chamber of Commerce; I imagine they’ll be glad to talk to you!

Where the hotel would be located is still up in the air. Certain sites are being looked at, but there are some criteria there as well. It needs to be along Highway 25, which if you think about it just makes sense. It’s the main road in Trousdale County and links us directly to Gallatin and Carthage, and indirectly to Lafayette and Lebanon.

It also needs to be in the Urban Services District – basically the old Hartsville city limits. Why? A hotel would need sewer access and garbage pickup, so Urban Services just makes sense.

That eliminates both the LamTech building on 25 (outside USD) and the old Texas Boot building (not on Highway 25). Both those sites need something done with them, certainly; they just aren’t the right place for a hotel.

I can understand why the Chamber hasn’t publicized which sites are being looked at; although if you ask around, it’s not exactly a secret. The price of potential properties would skyrocket if it became known that a big commercial business wanted to buy. That’s business, not corruption.

Who owns land along Highway 25 in town? Families who have been in Hartsville for a long time. How is that corrupt? That tends to be the case pretty much anywhere, in my experience.

I’ve written before in this very space complaining about the small-town mentality I believe too many people hold. Yes, Hartsville will always be a small town and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love it here! But being small and thinking small are two different things. It’s the difference between joining the 21st century and moving a town forward vs. being stuck in the past and allowing decades of decline to continue.

That’s not what I want for the community I call home.

Chris Gregory is editor of The Hartsville Vidette. Reach him at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.