VIProfile: Paul Latture




By Lee Rennick

Paul Latture came to the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce in 2009, during the “Great Recession,” and he has recently experience the pandemic with the rest of the community. In spite of everything, during his time at the Chamber the county continues to grow and thrive. He has certainly seen huge challenges during his tenure, but he has also seen much success, bringing in 12,000 new jobs and $1.7 billion in capital investments. His focus on economic growth includes emphasis on tourism and education and encompasses the entire county. 

He came to the county with a strong background in economic development and chamber management. Previous to his coming to Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, he served as the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. Before Jackson, he was the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board Executive Vice President for Economic Development. He has also served as assistant commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and director of membership development and government affairs for the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Latture was born into the “chamber business.” Both his father and grandfather ran chambers in Mississippi, where he was raised. “I listened to them talk at the dinner table and during holidays and I found what they had to say interesting,” said Latture. “When I was in college [at Ole Miss], I did internships with chambers in Little Rock, Arkansas and Mobile, Alabama. Then I got into the business right out of school.”

He was happily serving as the CEO of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce when Steve Benefield, then Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce President, called and told him he was leaving the chamber and that Latture should apply for the position. Latture turned Benefield down. The board ended up hiring someone else, but when that person left Benefield put in another call to his old friend. This time he listened to what Benefield and the Board of Directors had to say. He liked what he heard and what was happening in the area. He’s glad they pushed him towards the position. 

This is not to say that taking the position has been a walk in the park. Far from it. When he came the country was reeling from the “Great Recession,” but he took the time and made the effort to meet with many business owners and managers from companies large and small to listen to what they needed, then gauged where the Chamber of Commerce could provide value during recovery. Luckily, Rutherford County was not hurt as much as many other places and with the help of business partners like Tennessee Valley Authority, Middle Tennessee State University Small Business Development Center and the state, the area saw an economic turn-around led by Nissan. When the pandemic hit, he followed a similar pattern of asking members what they needed, although the needs were different and every day was a new day never knowing what to expect. 

“During the worst of the pandemic, we were able to get our businesses information and get them connected to people who could help them with the constantly changing government programs, like the Small Business Development Center,” said Latture. 

As the county comes out of the pandemic, Latture said that there is now a new business landscape with the “Great Resignation.” Baby Boomers are retiring early to do something else like travel or work part-time or change careers. And, he said that now that we have discovered that we can work from home and get things done, employers are having to write new rules and adapt to the demand for flexible work hours. Something also important to Millennials. He and his staff are now having the conversation with businesses about how to incorporate these changes and have a productive workforce. 

Part of the Chamber’s effort to help employers find workers includes workforce development. He has a staff of three that work on that all day, every day. They do everything from developing programming in kindergarten through high school to help create a pipeline to jobs through career information and post-secondary educational guidance to helping adults already in the workforce attain higher career goals with additional training and education. Currently, the focus is on filling much needed positions in mechatronics, skilled trades, computer programming and healthcare. 

“We are becoming a healthcare center with Saint Thomas, Murfreesboro Medical Clinic, StoneCrest and now Vanderbilt announcing that they will be building in the area,” said Latture. “We are becoming different, better than what we have been in the past.”

Hospitality and tourism crashed during the pandemic, but Latture is seeing this part of the economy come booming back. Adding cultural tourism to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has begun to pay dividends, according to Latture. He said that the increases in tourism are also increasing retail and dining opportunities. 

With the county cautiously coming out of the pandemic, Latture and his staff are able to provide their members, especially small businesses, with what they have been craving – personal contact. 

“One of the greatest things we can do for our small businesses is provide networking opportunities,” said Latture. “We have seen an uptick in attendance at our events. People want to do business with people that they know, interact with, trust and like. We lost a lot of that with virtual meetings. Now we are seeing its return.” 

He is proud of what the Chamber has been able to do in economic development, in education and in tourism since he came here. He is also happy to work with the cities in Rutherford County and to shine a light on their individual personalities and strengths. But he doesn’t see the job as being done. The county is still growing, from LaVergne to Eagleville. I-840 is the next frontier from the race track on the edge of Wilson County to Jefferson Pike to Smyrna, then at the southern part of 1-24 around Joe B. Jackson Parkway. 

“There is more population coming to Rutherford County,” said Latture, “as well as Bedford County, Coffee County. Cities like McMinnville and Manchester are growing, too.” These other counties come to Rutherford County to shop and for many services, especially healthcare. 
Depending on who is doing the research, Murfreesboro is either the first or fourth fastest growing city in the country. This means that Murfreesboro is “on the map” and companies are looking at the city, as well as Smyrna and LaVergne. This new growth means more job opportunities. 

“Right now, we are doing anything we can to put job seekers with job providers,” added Latture.

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