Regional development partnership bearing fruit in Erwin

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 21, 2018 at 11:53 PM

Nearly two years out from Unicoi County’s commitment to work cooperatively with Washington and Carter counties to bring jobs and investment to the region, the joint efforts of the counties’ Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership are bearing fruit in Erwin.

Within the past two weeks, two North Carolina industries have announced plans to expand their operations into Erwin.

Old Hickory Statesville Barn is refitting an engineering shop on former CSX property for the manufacture and onsite sales of outbuildings the company hopes will get underway this year — a $3 million investment expected to create 30 new jobs in its first year.

Kayak maker Pyranha has announced plans to move its North American distribution center from Asheville, N.C., to the former Cherokee Adventures location at Highway 107 in Erwin, bringing with it eight to 10 new jobs and a $1 million investment.

On Monday, the county’s Industrial Development Board, the Unicoi County Commission and the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen are all scheduled to vote on the county’s first tax incentive package for a new shopping center development in Erwin expected to create 150 jobs.

And an engineering firm contracted by the town of Erwin is developing plans for the installation of underground utilities and construction of a 150,000 square-foot concrete pad at the former Morgan Insulation industrial site on Second Street to market to manufacturing firms interested in building a plant capable of employing 200 or more people in living-wage jobs.

In Nashville on Friday with representatives of Washington County’s Economic Development Board, Tyler Engle, director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County, said in a phone interview that state grant funding awarded to Erwin for the pad-ready development of the Morgan site was secured with the assistance of the NETREP partnership.

He also noted that in Carter County, an existing industry recently broke ground on a major expansion. 

“All of that is evidence that our regional efforts are working and we can see them beginning to bear fruit,” Engle said.

“The thing that is important is that our cooperation is so much better than it was two years ago. We learn from each other. And we’re not fighting each other.

“We would have never thought a few years ago, we would have the Second Street development. That is a direct result of the regional partnership. The Unicoi development board, the city of Erwin, Erwin Utilities and (NETREP) partners, we all worked together to get that.”

Looking forward, Engle said, “Within the next five years for sure, we will have a business on that site.”

NETREP representatives are currently working with Engle in Unicoi County two days to three days each week. “They have seven on staff. So basically, we have a staff of eight, which Unicoi County could never afford on our budget. That’s something to remember and something to really be proud of in our partnership,” he said.

“We have just really learned a lot from out friends in Washington and Carter counties and we’re excited to be working together. We see a bright future for Upper East Tennessee. It’s on everyone’s tongue. And that is why everybody is talking about regionalism.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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