City may get 200 high-paying professional jobs

Nathan Baker • Feb 20, 2014 at 9:17 PM

A major corporate office project could soon bring more than 200 high-paying professional jobs to Johnson City in conjunction with the possible expansion of a manufacturer in a nearby county, Mitch Miller told the Washington County Economic Development Council on Thursday.

Without revealing the company’s identity, Council CEO Miller said the $9.5 million office investment, code named Project Stone, would likely be one of the stronger economic drivers introduced in the city in recent years.

“It could be a very, very significant project for Johnson City, for Washington County, for this region as a whole,” Miller told the public and private members of the economic organization’s board.

The valued corporate jobs, paying between $75,000 and $150,000 annually, could be a shot in the arm for the local economy, pumping millions of dollars of disposable income into the market.

The office side of Project Stone is directly tied to the expansion of the already existing manufacturing facility in the region, Miller said. One won’t happen without the other.

In addition to $9.5 million for the corporate office, the manufacturing construction aspect would represent a $12.8 million investment and would mean increased production at the established operation.

“Both of these projects will work hand-in-hand, so it’s equally important that we really focus on the corporate office element growing here, so that way, the manufacturing can stay here with it,” Miller said.

The combined expansions could have an $80.4 million total annual impact on the region once both facilities are fully operational, economics professor Jon Smith estimated, and their construction would bring $11.5 million of temporary effects into the area in each of the first three years.

If the city lands the office project, it would likely be contingent on quick approval of a comprehensive package of local, state and federal tax abatement incentives, which Miller said he and his staff were already pushing.

Business Development Director Alicia Summers, the WCEDC’s newest hire, spent time last week filling out applications for incentives offered by the Tennessee Valley Authority and speaking with local state representatives, and Miller plans to meet with Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty next week to discuss the project.

Miller and his staff also plan to get a tax incentives proposal on the City Commission’s March meeting agenda, hoping for short debate on the measure.

“By that time, we hope we will have an outline from the state as to what they can put on the table to incentivize the project,” he said. “It’s a big project.”

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