‘Chamber has helped create a vibrant community ... ’
By: Jackson Chamber on Oct 07, 2015
Mayor Jimmy Harris, left, and Kyle Spurgeon, Jackson Chamber president and CEO, attend Leadership Jackson’s 2014 graduation ceremony.
Harris became the mayor of Madison County in July 2007 – an achievement that was put in motion when he was a child and watched his mother work in campaigns for candidates running for political office.
Harris has been a businessman for more than 40 years and a real estate developer in Jackson for 27 years. Serving the community as mayor of Madison County has been a great highlight in his career, he said.
“I guess I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grow up: work in real estate and serve as the mayor of Madison County.”
Harris served on the city board in Lexington for two terms in the mid 1980s, but he also always wanted to be a part of a statewide political campaign. In 1986, he got his wish and joined Winfield Dunn’s campaign for governor. He gained the experience he needed to lead his own campaign for mayor eight years ago.
As the mayor of Madison County, Harris was selected to join the Jackson Chamber board of directors and has become a critical member of Team Madison County, which is headed by the Jackson Chamber.
Team Madison County is a partnership between local governments, businesses, the chamber and other organizations to serve as the lead contact for industrial development. The members, including the City of Jackson, Madison County, JEA, TVA and the State of Tennessee, work together to recruit new industries and support existing industries.
One of the most important relationships that Mayor Harris maintains on Team Madison County is with City of Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist, who is also on the Jackson Chamber board of directors. The two work together to create solutions and provide support for local businesses and industries.
Team Madison County assures new businesses that the government will support them by providing the infrastructure that they need to be successful, said Mayor Harris. The team frequently joins potential industries on a tour of Jackson to help expose them to the amenities in the area and to answer any questions about local government, workforce development and other concerns.
“We are business friendly, allowing companies to do what they do best — run their own business — and we are very proud of the long tenure of so many companies that have chosen to do business in Madison County,” Harris said.
He believes that Team Madison County has changed the economic landscape of the county and Jackson over the years.
“Team Madison County was here long before I became mayor and will continue to be after I am gone. However, we have had many successes in my time as mayor, including attracting new industries and encouraging industry expansions.”
Mayor Harris and his wife, Loni, find great satisfaction in living in the community that they love, close to their grandchildren. Madison County is one of most caring, giving communities that they have ever lived in, he said.
“There are so many churches and nonprofits helping people, as well as citizens who volunteer and participate in fundraisers to support those nonprofits; it’s a sign of a strong community spirit.”
Unifying the nonprofits, encouraging economic development and recruiting industry to the area, the Jackson Chamber has been a stimulating factor in energizing the community to “connect here,” said Mayor Harris.
“The Jackson Chamber has played an integral and critical role in commercial and industrial development. It has helped to create a vibrant community that continues to grow.”