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By Natalie Knudsen, Chamber of Commerce

If you were unable to attend the Chamber’s annual Celebration and Recognition Banquet on Aug. 6, you missed out on a great event. One of my favorite parts of the meeting is recognizing businesses and individuals who make our community a better place to live and work.

This year’s award winners includes: Business of the Year – SaGrace Farm Florist; Citizen/Volunteer of the Year – Lisa Dies; Government Official of the Year – Bill Scruggs; Organization of the Year – Backpack Program; Business with Most Improved Appearance – Citizens Bank; and a special Good Sport award to Warden Russell Washburn for his time in the Chamber’s Dunk Tank at Music in the Park.

Natalie Knudsen

Our annual Celebration and Recognition Banquet also features a live auction, which is a major fundraiser for the Chamber’s activities throughout the year. A special thank you to Matthew Carman for auctioneering this great event.

I’d also like to thank the businesses and individuals who contributed items: Advanced Propane, Citizens Bank, Wilson Bank & Trust, TN Central Economic Alliance, Woodsmoke Farms, Stephen Chambers, Trousdale Medical Center, Foodland, SaGrace Farm Florist, Jerry Richmond, Tri-County Electric, Paul and Natalie Knudsen, G & L Garden Center, Psalmbird Coffee, PigPen BBQ, The Mexican Grilled Cheese, Hartsville Liquors, Hartsville Pharmacy, WTNK Radio.

And of course, an auction can’t be successful without bidders willing to spend some money. A big “thank you” to everyone who purchased items at the auction to help support the work of the Chamber of Commerce in the community.

Last month I was invited to attend a program in Nashville called Retail Academy, which focuses on recruiting retail businesses to rural Tennessee communities. The meeting was a mix of facts and figures on Hartsville’s current economic conditions and part education on the steps needed to secure retailers for our community.

Let’s start with the facts and figures, these are based on a 10-mile radius or 15-minute drive time from downtown Hartsville – this is considered our trade area.

The average age is 40 years, median household income is $40,194, and our growth rate is 5.31 percent. Our daytime population is 18,029, which includes people working in the trade area. The 18,000+ daytime population was a surprise to me, but let’s not forget that these individuals have the opportunity to shop, eat and fill up their cars here.

The next group of numbers was especially depressing to me. This was the GAP Analysis or “leakage” in industry speak. This figure represents the degree to which consumers travel outside our trade area for certain retail goods and services. The Hartsville trade area is losing $86,579,415 in potential sales. That’s correct – $86 million – and that doesn’t include sales tax!

The study looked at eight service areas, but Hartsville’s top five focus categories include: clothing, grocery, building and garden, health and personal care. These are the areas where people travel outside our trade area to make their purchases.

Next time we’ll look at what it takes to recruit a retail business to our area. This Scottish nursery rhyme – ‘If wishes were horses then beggars would ride, If turnips were swords I’d have one by my side’ – reflects the current attitude on attracting new businesses. It’s not going to magically happen; we have to put some work into the process.