For more than the past two decades, Margot Fosnes has been a fixture in the Robertson County Community, working on the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Board in a variety of positions.
Now, after serving as Chief Economic Development Officer for the past 16 years, Fosnes officially retired from her role at the end of 2022, where she has been replaced by Vonda Gates.
Although she had been considering retirement for a while, Fosnes believed that the timing was right to end her career now.
“I was able to get Medicare, so the timing of that was a big importance. But I just feel pretty strongly that a lot of people in my generation are trying to hang on to long in the workplace and that we need to open these positions up for the next generation. So, I felt like I didn’t want to keep working until I couldn’t work anymore. It was a good timing for me. I have a 4-year-old grandson, and my husband is winding up his medical practice, so it was the right time for us personally as well.”
Fosnes first began working with the Economic Development Board in November of 2006 but had been working in the realm of finance and administration for several decades. After growing up near Jacksonville, Florida, she originally came to Tennessee in 1975 to continue her education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where she received a degree in economics. She then began working in the financial field with regional brokerage houses for the financial services firm Raymond James.
After moving to Robertson County in 1989, her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Fosnes, started his own family medical practice in Springfield. It was during this time that former mayor Billy Paul Carneal, who was then Executive Director of the chamber of commerce, visited the couple and talked to them about getting involved in the community and their interest in joining the chamber.
Once Dr. Fosnes’ practice joined, Margot soon began doing committee work for the chamber and eventually became a board member. In 2001 she was promoted to chair of the board.
“It really gave me a great outlet to become involved in the community and get involved in the projects that the chamber of commerce has done over the years, which are incredible things that have moved our community forward,” Fosnes said.
In 2006, the paid position of President and Chief Economic Development Officer for the chamber became available, and Fosnes jumped at the opportunity, which she says was a perfect chance to make a career out of something she had already loved doing.
Prior to living in Springfield, Fosnes and her husband originally moved to Centerville for six years, where Dr. Fosnes first started his medical practice. During their time in such a small town, Margot says she developed an appreciation for her line of work in commerce and industry building as she began to see the impact and value of groups working together to make a difference in their community.
“I saw that potential in Centerville and saw the same thing here in Springfield and Robertson County. I think it’s only been reaffirmed over the years that if you get likeminded people together who have a common goal, the power of collaboration and coalitions is huge.”
“That’s what I loved the most about this job,” she added. “Working with the chamber and the economic development board, we make connections with people. We bring people together to solve issues and make plans for the future, and that’s very fulfilling.”
When asked what she believes are some of her proudest accomplishments during her time with the chamber and economic development board, Fosnes mentioned the construction of Highland Crest College, the home of Volunteer State Community College’s Springfield campus.
Despite some initial opposition at the city level, as president of the chamber Fosnes helped create a coalition of people to support a referendum for funding of the campus for the City of Springfield. After the special vote was held, a $3 million bond was approved to build the college.
“Without the city being involved it wouldn’t have happened,” Fosnes said. “We were really able to put the case out there to folks that this was a good thing for the community. It passed with at least 70% of the vote. That being the first higher education facility in Robertson County was a real difference maker for our students and our workforce, because for so many people going out of the county to take college classes was a deal breaker. So, to have it right here in Springfield was such a difference maker, and it’s really increased our college attainment rate in the county since it’s been in existence.”
A second project that Fosnes believes has made a positive difference in the county is bringing a Lowe’s distribution facility to Coopertown. It was the single largest job creation project she was involved with at the time, bringing in 600 jobs and a $100 million investment. More than anything, she says it serves as another example of how different groups within the county had to work collaboratively.
“It was our county and the economic development board providing incentives, but it also involved the city of Coopertown doing things that they’ve never had to do before,” Fosnes said. “They had never had any industry like this in Coopertown, so they had a lot of things to work through as far as permitting and zoning that they worked very hard on for a whole year to get things in place so they could win that project. It also took the city of Springfield coming along side of us and being willing to work with us on an infrastructure grant to get the water to that site. It was a true collaboration of our board, of the county, the city of Springfield, and the town of Coopertown all coming together to support that.”
Despite her retirement, Fosnes says she would like to continue to stay involved in the economic development and community development world and is considering doing some contract work or consulting.
In the immediate future, Fosnes will remain in a retainer role on the Economic Development Board for at least three more months, to help oversee the completion of several projects she had been involved with. Among those include the development of a business park in White House, as well as a few other ongoing projects that are planned to come to fruition in the next couple of months.
“Over the years I’ve been involved at state and regional level economic development organizations, the Tennessee Economic Development Council, and chamber of commerce organizations. So, I would like to continue keeping my hand in that a little bit, but I’m also looking at some other volunteer opportunities.”
Additionally, Fosnes said she recently signed up to be a volunteer for the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax prep program. She also hopes to return to Haiti for medical mission trips her and her husband had frequently taken in the past but have been unable to go in recent years due to the Covid pandemic and political unrest in the country.
The Fosnes also purchased a small home on the beach where Margot grew up. She plans to spend more time there in the future as well, along with spending plenty of time with her 4-year-old grandson.