July 12, 2016

Schilling Chairman Shares Vision for Collierville

By Katherine Cromer
– The Commercial Appeal –

As Collierville’s Schilling Farms continues into its second phase of development, its leaders have come to two realizations.

First, what’s good for Collierville is good for Schilling Farms and the entire community.

And second, some people around town need an attitude adjustment.

Harry Smith, chairman of Schilling Enterprises, joined Rusty Bloodworth, executive vice president of Boyle Investment Co., in addressing the Collierville area Chamber of Commerce at this month’s membership luncheon.

Smith was scheduled to update the group on the progress at Schilling Farms. But luncheon organizers didn’t know exactly what he was going to say.

Smith quickly ventured into an analysis of Collierville’s strengths and weaknesses that heartened supporters of Mayor Linda Kerley and left some supporters of the former administration clapping politely, then heading for the door.

The 458-acre Schilling Farms planned unit development was approved in 1991. Already at home in Schilling Farms, or on the way, are the Collierville YMCA, Schilling Farms Middle School, Kid-Tech Child Care Center, BankTennessee, NBC Bank, and homes and apartments.

It is the future site of a hotel, a church, restaurants, possible Helena Chemical, and it has room for more offices, business and industry.

"And we’ve got a lot of other projects in the process," Smith said. "I am thankful for the way things are going."

"I can tell you how complicated land development is, especially a project like Schilling Farms," which Smith said he envisions as a "testament to the community."

"It just seems neat to me that people can live there, can work there, can go to school there, can go to church there, can go to the YMCA and work out there," he said.

Smith said Schilling Farms was always considered a "town within a town."

But as he’s watched Schilling Farms grow, he said, he’s seen Collierville grow. And issues such as the debate over where to put the new Town Hall do nothing to further Collierville as a whole and, in fact, are divisive, he said.

"Collierville is bigger than Baptist Hospital. It’s even bigger than Federal Express. And it’s bigger than Town Hall," Smith said. "Collierville is a good town. It can be a better town."

Smith said he has a vision for Collierville, which includes the best businesses, the best homes and steady growth.

But in order for it all to work, Smith said, an attitude shift is needed.

First and foremost, cut out the negativity, he said.

"We had good leadership before, we’ve got great leadership now," he said. "What we need to do is be supportive."

The debate over the town hall has been growing for months. The issue has divided people into those who view the Town Hall as the heart of the city and want it left near the Square and those who view it as part of a growing, shifting Collierville, and want it elsewhere, possible at Halle Park or Schilling Farms.

City administrator James Lewellan has said a decision on its location needs to be made as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of this month.

"We’ve got to trust Mayor Kerley and the board to get all the facts," Smith said. "Once they make a decision, we’ve got to trust them.

"Outsiders are watching us," he said. "We could all be ambassadors and help people have a better attitude, and that will help us have a better town. People pulling together is what makes a better town."

Bloodworth echoed many of Smith’s sentiments.

"We work with a lot of different municipalities," Bloodworth said. "The thing that I’ve really sensed over the last 12 months, is that we’re really a part of the team."

Bloodworth added that being part of the team means not focusing on one means not focusing on one project or one development, but looking at the big picture of the entire city.

"What’s really important is for this community to continue on the momentum it’s got," he said.

"We would like all the Helena Chemical in the world and all the Federal Expresses of the world to be at Schilling Farms. But we’re really all OK if they go next door or across the street."

Kerley, who attended the luncheon along with several board members, appreciated Smith’s words.

"On behalf of the board, I thank him for his candor," she said.