PHOTO: Tower Community Bank President Hunter Battle is a Nolensville native and has a wealth of insight into the city’s history and future./ / PHOTOS BY RUSSELL VANNOZZI
By RUSSELL VANNOZZI
Nolensville was once a sleepy small town, high on dairy farms and low on other commercial business.
Now, according to Realtor.com, the city is the 10th fastest-growing suburb in the nation, and it also has one of the state’s highest median home list prices at $511,100
The population has skyrocketed from 1,500 in the 1990s to an estimated 12,000 (and growing) today. Strip plazas, restaurants and new housing developments are popping up around town, and Nolensville High School is set to graduate its first set of seniors of this coming school year.
Many of the new residents came from out of town for jobs in Nashville, but natives can still be found if you search hard enough.
One of them is banking veteran Hunter Battle, who was born in Nolensville in 1955. Although he moved away for banking jobs in Memphis and Houston, Texas, he has since returned to become president of Tower Community Bank’s new Nolensville Road location.
Battle recently sat down with Home Page Media to discuss his career in banking, where Nolensville has been and where it is going.
Home Page Media: What about community banking do you enjoy? And what makes Tower Community Bank special?
Hunter Battle: If you need something, then you come in, talk to me and get an answer. If you go to most of the other banks in town and need a loan, they can’t underwrite it there. Decisions are generally made here in my office. People like that. We want to be a player in community activities. To the extent that I can do things for Nolensville people, that’s what I want to do. Our moniker is that we have a higher standard, so the idea is if you call, you’re going to get an answer quickly. We are also a national mortgage lender. We do loans in 49 states – we don’t do Hawaii.
HP: What do you remember about Nolensville from your childhood?
HB: I’m one of the few people you will find around here that was born in this town. When I was growing up, the historic district burned down and they had to rebuild it – except for the feed mill. That was the mid-1960s. We had a volunteer department and still do. The Woodbine Fire department had to come help, and they threw their hose into Mill Creek, which they were going to use pump water to put the fire out. But the creek was dry and they had to haul water in, and by the time they did that, the place was gone.
You could lie down on Nolensville Road and take a nap and not worry about getting run over. Now, you can barely cross the street. It’s changed a lot over time.
HP: Where did you go to high school, since Nolensville did not have one?
HB: I went to Antioch High School. I lived right on the Davidson-Williamson County line, and my dad was a principal in the Metro School system. At that time, Metro Schools were much better than Williamson County Schools. The world has changed there, too. I went on to MTSU and eventually got my master’s degree at Memphis State, which is now the University of Memphis.
HP: What did Nolensville used to be like? Lots of dairy farms? What happened to them?
HB: It was a little farm community. It was a day trip to go to Nashville. There was no Interstate – it stopped at Old Hickory Boulevard. I used to know people that would go out to I-24 and drag race because there was no traffic. Nobody used it, everyone still used Nolensville Road as the main artery into Nashville. Everything around here was a dairy farm. All of that is gone now – I don’t think there’s a farm left. The land become worth more than the enterprise, so the farmers sold their land.
HP: Is there still a small-town, everyone-knows-each-other type of feel in Nolensville?
HB: We’re bigger than “everyone knows each other” now, but it still has a small-community feel. If you come Saturday to the Farmer’s Market, you’ll get a taste of that because everyone goes to it. It’s a really active town. When things change and get built, there’s always a lot of discussion of as it whether it should or shouldn’t happen. You still have that small-town interplay between the citizens and the government that you don’t get in a big city. Depending on which side you’re on, that can be good or bad.
HP: It appears the growth of Nolensville was inevitable. Why do you think it’s taken so long for development here? Because it’s further away from the interstates?
HB: That could have something to do with it. But really, I think it’s the infrastructure. Nashville has grown by leaps and bounds. It grew north into Hendersonville, south into Franklin and Cool Springs. The sewer, water and gas lines went with it. Nolensville was kind of left here in the corner. The growth followed the (infrastructure) lines. It was just a matter of running the utilities this way, and that costs a lot. Developers went where things were proven. It took a while for Nolensville to develop. Once we got on everyone’s radar, developments were put in and now it’s booming.
HP: You’re a banker and a mortgage guy, so the growth of the area is probably good for your business. But are there still people in Nolensville that don’t want to see the city grow?
HB: There’s a lot of people here that don’t want to see the growth. Every time something new comes in, there’s people that voice concern that we’re growing too fast. There’s always a group that wants to keep it the same, but the same is gone. If you wanted to keep Nolensville the same, you would have needed to keep all the infrastructure out so that it couldn’t grow. The small town is gone.
HP: Have the city’s roads and other infrastructure struggled to keep up with this unprecedented amount of growth?
HB: Absolutely. It’s an interesting conundrum because the town is tight when you drive through it. You’ve got a 2-lane highway without a lot of room to grow. You’ve got monstrous growth with people coming in. If you sit on our front porch (at Tower Community Bank) in the morning, there’s a line of traffic going to Nashville. Nolensville really is a bedroom community. This is a place where people come to live and play, but they work in Nashville or Cool Springs. Late in the afternoon, there’s a line of traffic coming back in. You must sit and wait for every red light. How do you expand it? I don’t know.
HP: Do you think Nolensville will ever become like the Smyrnas and Brentwoods and Hendersonvilles of the world?
HB: It won’t be soon… but yeah, eventually. There are several new developments that have been approved or are in the works. I think it would be a miniature version (of a major suburb). You can’t have huge growth because you have one road (Nolensville Road). You also have limited land, a creek and the flood plains. But it’s going to expand as far as it can, and that’ll make Nolensville have a pretty big footprint. I think it will become more of a destination town for (specialty) restaurants and stores, rather than commercial ones.
HP: Nolensville isn’t too far from I-65 and I-24, but it’s also not too close to either interstate. Do you think the location is appealing? Williamson County Schools probably also has something to do with it, right?
HB: It still gives you the country feel. You have good parks and back roads to run around on. It’s kind of like living in town, but you’re not. That appeals to a lot of people. You’re paying a premium for the schools. And that holds (home) prices up and inflates them. That’s the scary part – you don’t want to get too expensive. Nolensville has a lot of families, and that’s a great thing. But folks have to have substantial income in order to be here. It’s a great spot to be – if you have lots of money.
HP: What do you see Nolensville looking like in the next 5-10 years? Surely there will be more commercial growth as the population grows?
HB: You’re going to see all the property behind here and the Davidson County line fill up. Right now, all those tracts have been for sale for years. They’ve asked a price that no one would pay, so they’ve waited for the price to come to them, and I think it’s doing that. The growth is going to be towards Davidson because the infrastructure is already there. That will change the complexion of things because it won’t feel like its set way back from (Nashville).
HP: Tower Community Bank had a lemonade stand kit giveaway at the Nolensville Farmer’s Market this past weekend. What inspired this idea?
We wanted to do something that was a little different in the community, rather than just a product type of thing. Everyone here is fired up about the lemonade stand kits. It’ll be interesting to see how the kids do. Over the next few weeks, the parents will help them set it up and we’ll have an unbiased third party judge them. The winner gets a ($100 certificate of deposit). It’s good for the kids to learn some entrepreneurship at a young age.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.