Desoto County News

Making the right turn

Photo: T.J. Cates, new Development Director for the City of Horn Lake. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Cates charged with developing Horn Lake’s attributes

His films have promoted such things as real estate and entertainment in Nashville and he’s done interviews with the movers and shakers of DeSoto County in a program he calls “Good Morning DeSoto.” He’s been a movie maker and through video has even helped promote a successful mayoral candidate. 

Now, T.J. Cates has been given a new script to promote as the new Development Director for the City of Horn Lake. Cates has visions of making the city be more visible and attractive for visitors, potential new residents and new businesses. 

Cates believes the first step in making that happen is to make a turn… the right turn.  

“I would like to see more people take a right when they come down I-55 than a left,” Cates said. “When you look at most cities, if you go south you take a left. Our grass is just as greener in Horn Lake as anywhere else. It’s just as green here as in Germantown.”

Cates believes Horn Lake has been many times picked over for the city to the east of I-55 and he wants to change that.

One thing he’d like to see is, for instance, signage along the interstate as travelers approach that promotes Horn Lake and the reasons it should be a destination.  

Cates said the city should promote shopping availabilities, but added some clean up and spruce up could help that.  

“We also want to attract people for shopping from Harbortown, from Cooper-Young and maybe from West Memphis,” Cates said. “To attract people you need to become attractive, so we need to make Horn Lake more attractive.  If we dress up Goodman Road, we can get people to go a little bit further down the road.”

Beyond shopping, Cates is especially excited about the possibilities coming from the proposed development of a park area on land the city has. The 416-acre site is north of Goodman Road West and east of Horn Lake Road. The land was donated several years ago but it can’t be improved with new construction because it’s in a flood plain. 

The site of a proposed Eco-Park in Horn Lake that would attract campers and acknowledge the city’s Chickasaw Indians’ historic heritage. (Courtesy photo)

However, it can be developed into a park area, Cates said, and would reflect a Chickasaw Indian historic heritage with the naming of the park for a multiple-time governor of the Chickasaw Nation.

“Cyrus Harris was the five-time governor of the Chickasaw Nation in the Trail of Tears of the 1830s,” Cates said. “We want to do naming rights for the park to be in his name. We can also name the trails after Chickasaw Indians.”

The area could offer rustic camping and archery, as well. “We want to do something different for Horn Lake to attract people,” Cates said.  

City of Horn Lake Development Director T.J. Cates.
(Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Another strong opportunity for attracting people to Horn Lake remains the Circle G Ranch, the land owned by Elvis Presley at the southeast corner of Goodman Road West and Highway 301.  

Revitalizing the property would certainly be an attraction for Elvis fans who may have already visited Graceland. 

Those involved in the development of the land have been mum for some time about its progress and Cates said he couldn’t comment on the project.  

But, in 2014, the property was bought by a group of investors led by Davage “Buddy” Runnels Jr., the founder and owner of Real Estate International, Inc., or REI. Runnels is a Mississippi native who now owns REI, a Destin, Florida-based company.

There was an initial splash at the time of purchase about Runnels’ plans for the property. Little has been said since, but it apparently remains a possibility. The completion of that project would certainly enhance Horn Lake’s attractiveness to tourists and visitors, all of which would fall into Cates’ vision of what Horn Lake can be.  

“My passion is to bring people,” said Cates. “We’re not trying to make some big metropolis out of it but we have to have reasons for people to want to come.”  

And coming from the big city to the north, it all starts with a right turn, or in Cates’ mind, the “right turn.”  

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