Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller made it clear what he thought the answer was: Land.
In recent months, the bulk of the board’s attention has been centered on two plots of land in Telford, commonly known as the Washington County Industrial Park.
But it likely won’t be long before those two sites are occupied.
“We’ve got two sites that are going to be ready to go (at the industrial park). Just the activity we’ve been getting there, something big is going to land at the Industrial Park,” Miller told board members on Wednesday.
Just off Highway 11E, the 21-acre and 67-acre parcels have gained quite a bit of attention in recent months as officials continue courting large manufacturers and businesses to locate there.
At the Washington County Commission’s April meeting, Alicia Summers, the WCEDC’s business development director, said grading on the 21-acre site is about 85 percent complete, and once finished, it will accomodate a 150,000 square-foot building footprint.
Phase Two of the project will consist of grading the 67-acre site for a 450,000 square-foot building.
“It’s going to be a monumental project, something that’s going to pay dividends for years to come,” Miller told county commissioners.
Since construction began in November, the number of prospects interested in locating at the industrial park has soared.
Miller told commissioners that before breaking ground, between January 2016 to the end of October, only three manufacturing prospects had visited the site. Since November, officials have given eight potential prospects tours around the parcel for the first time. One of those has toured the site five different times.
At the end of March, Summers also visited a conference in Dallas, where she pitched the Washington County Industrial Park to 15 consultants who represented eight different firms.
Miller said at least one more prospect is lined up to look at the property within the month.
“Our hope is that we'll see some announcements very soon, but the fact the dirt is being moved speaks volumes to the activity and opportunities we now have,” Miller said.
In 2016, the region received two grants, one from the TVA and one from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, to begin developing the site. The WCEDC also contributed $250,000 towards the project.
According to March 2016 Johnson City Press article, there were initially 16 lost opportunities at the industrial park, largely due to company officials not wanting to wait for prepping and grading.
The industrial park is currently home to Japanese automotive companies Koyo Corp. and Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, as well as Swedish company ALO Industries, which manufactures agricultural and farming equipment.
The IDB board could resort to luring a large manufacturer to the area using tax incentives, like a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement, or a tax increment financing agreement, often known as a TIF.
When a commissioner asked if those options were on the table, Miller said, “Right now, we’re looking at the site. So, as we talk about incentives, we’re open to discussion to consider that.”
Related to tax incentives, after approval by the City Commission two weeks ago, board members unanimously voted on Wednesday to amend a local tax incentive agreement with NN Inc.
As far as looking at future sites to lure businesses, the IDB board is hoping to take it to a larger scale.
“We’ve got to think bigger. We’ve got to think as a region as far as where our next employment center is going to be,” Miller said.
“Like the Aerospace Park is a great example. I mean that project is phenomenal, but it’s got to be bigger than that. We’ve got to think long-term beyond this one site, too.”
The IDB Board’s only official item of business on Wednesday included a unanimous vote to amend a local PILOT agreement with NN Inc to match a similar state economic incentive.
The original local agreement required that NN Inc. maintain at least 80 percent of 200 jobs by 2016 or make payments to the city proportional to the number of missed jobs.
On April 20, the City Commission voted 4-1 to amend the agreement, extending the timeline to 2019, the same date as the state’s agreement.
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