A weekend rancher puts his stock in White County

By | January 3, 2002 12:00 am

Emily Moorehead
Gone are his formal slacks and crisp dress shirt.
His polished loafers have been exchanged for sturdy work boots, and a heavy barn coat covers buttoned flannel tucked into worn blue jeans.
Now, it’s time to tend to the cattle.
“That little brown one and that little gray one I found on December 26th,” he says, pointing toward two new calves who frolic in a nearby field.
This rancher resembles other cattle owners and farmers of White county, and passers-by would mistake him for a full-time cattleman the way he’s tending to his stock.
But Wallace Glen Austin, the gentleman in these work clothes, is the full-time driving force behind bringing new business and industry to White County.
No stranger to the area, Austin was born and raised in White county.
The property on which his cattle farm is located was purchased by his father in the early 1960s.
It spreads on both sides of Austin Road, though he says he’s not certain if the road was named after his father.
On his 70 acres, Austin is the cattle man.
During the week, he sits dressed for executive success at the helm of the Sparta/White County Chamber of Commerce, where he uses his many talents to bring corporate recognition to the area.
In his current position, he has been dedicated to county growth and development for over 12 years.
“I thought a job like this would be something I’d enjoy doing,” said Austin.
“Then a position came open, I applied and was lucky enough to get the job.”
Many White County residents believe this area was lucky to find such a diligent promoter of its resources.
“Every month, the Chamber Board is always pleasantly surprised at the list of contacts and activities Wallace has accomplished in one short month,” said Suzanne Dickerson, Chairman of the Chamber Board.
“Most people don’t realize how much he does to promote this county.”
Austin explained that among the many assets of the area, he always stresses the quality of life available in White County to prospective industries and corporations looking to locate a factory or business in the area, then he will turn the focus to the logistics of doing business in White County.
“We talk about the accessibilty our community has with the road system,” he said.
“If someone is moving products north or south, or east or west, they have a four-lane access to the interstate system, and we are about one day’s drive from the major population centers of the east coast.”
Austin added the county is very fortunate to have cooperative partners such as Caney Fork Electric and Sparta Electric because these utility companies are able to provide a stable energy flow for the power needs of small or large concerns.
“An industry is always going look at the physical location first, then they’ll look at the availibity of labor, then land, then buildings, and then they’ll look at the quality of life for their employees,” said Austin.
“It’s an honor to promote this community.
Since 1992 we’ve had nine industries locate in White county.”
The primary way the Chamber markets White county is on the Internet, because it is agreed this maximizes national exposure of the many benefits of locating a business here.
Austin and others travel to industrial shows to recruit corporate interest in the community and, though he doesn’t have to travel excessively, he frequently attends regional meetings and seminars in Nashville.
“We keep abreast of what’s going on in the state,” he said.
“and we keep our members informed of what’s going on.”
When Austin became president of the Chamber in 1989, there were less than 100 members.
Today, 206 businesses and individuals are present on the Chamber roster.
“Basically, the Chamber brings together everybody interesed in economic and community development,” he said.
“We promote our members on the Internet, through printed materials, and we try to keep them advised what’s going on with the state budget through emails and our monthly membership luncheon meetings.”
“The Chamber is a kind of information clearing house for the community,” Austin continued.
“It’s for people who want to make their homes or business here, and for the community.
We send out relocation packages constantly to people who are interested in locating a business here or just moving here.”
Austin received a BS in Business at the University of Tennessee with a major in Marketing, and he is an active member of the Sparta Rotary Club.
He attends the First Baptist Church with his wife, Vicki, a local teacher who has also brought positive attention to White County by being the only area teacher to be honored with a Bridgestone/Firestone Teacher’s Grant for four years running.
The Austins have two sons, Jeremy, 23, and Jared who is 21.
Jared attends and plays basketball for Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, and Jeremy is soon to enter training to become a member of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and he is married to Lindsey, a schoolteacher at White County High School.
“I’ve been very blessed, I’m very grateful and thankful for my family, my job and the opportunity to contribute to White County,” said Austin.
“It’s really nice to drive by the Industrial Park, and know I have a small part in the jobs provided by the different industries.”
Austin said currently there are three White county industries expanding operations, and a new plant, Roaring Cumberland, that located here last year is now beginning to hire employees and process its product.
“I think people are looking for a better quality of life,” Austin said of the current trend of people exiting large cities for a calmer rural life.
“Right now, we are very blessed in our local economy, and our future looks very bright.”
With such a capable Chamber President as Wallace Austin, the future of White County looks very bright indeed.

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