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Unicoi County development projects moving forward

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 29, 2018 at 12:48 AM

ERWIN — The Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County on Friday voted to contribute $20,800 toward the nearly $200,000 cost of a new traffic signal at the Second Street entrance to the new Food City shopping center.

The town of Erwin asked for the JEDB contribution for the mast-arm traffic signal planned for the intersection of Second Street and the Highway 107 railroad overpass.

Paul Farnor, who represents Erwin Utilities on the JEDB, made the motion to approve funding and Loren Thomas, chairman of the Unicoi County Commission, seconded the motion. The expenditure was approved unanimously by a voice vote that followed a brief discussion of other infrastructure investments previously made by the JEDB.

In an update on the new shopping center and development of the former Morgan Insulation property also located on Second Street, JEDB Executive Director Tyler Engle said, “We are putting our prime property to work.”

In line for construction of a 150,000 square-foot concrete pad to be marketed to industries interested in building a single, large manufacturing facility, the Morgan site development is being funded through a $500,000 grant from the State Department of Economic and Community Development to the town of Erwin, which owns the 15-acre property.

Engle told the board when complete the property “will be a prime prime site for all of East Tennessee.”

“We will have a 150,000 square-foot pad ready to go. No other place has that,” he said. 

Engle said an engineering study has shown the property is nearly level and will not require the large amount of fill dirt previously anticipated. The project is being advertised for bids and grading is expected to begin this fall. 

At the Food City shopping center site, work to remove the concrete pad on which the former Hoover Ball plant was located recently got underway and appeared to be moving quickly on Friday.

Food City also anticipates beginning the construction this fall and completing the 43,000-square-foot grocery store in April. The shopping center will also feature 7,000 square feet of additional retail space, a Food City Gas-N_Go and a drive-through ATM.

In the coming year, Engle said the JEDB will step up its focus on residential development including the implementation of a multi-phase capital investment project to enhance new home construction and tourism. He said the JEDB is also working on a couple of business retention projects that it hopes to announce soon.

Erwin Town Recorder and JEDB board member Glenn Rosenoff announced a partnership between the town with Erwin Fiber to provide a free wireless internet connection downtown.

And JEDB Chairman and Erwin Utilities General Manager Lee Brown announced Unicoi County is one of 12 Appalachian communities that have been selected for a study of Appalachian region being funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“I take that as a compliment,” Brown said. “We have a good relationship with ARC, I believe ARC thinks more of our community than we do.

“Be proud of what’s going on here. A lot of good things have happened and lot more good things are going to come,” Brown said.

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