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Industrial Board hears updates on economic projects

Robert Houk • Jan 25, 2020 at 12:00 AM

The head of Washington County Industrial Development Board believes the county “is blessed” to have a number of economic development projects coming to fruition.

“It’s been a very successful year,” Board Chairman Chuck Mason said at the panel’s annual meeting on Friday. “It’s unreal the activity we’ve seen.”

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said chief among those economic development successes for the county in 2019 was luring German fan manufacturer Ebm-pabst to the Washington County Industrial Park in Telford.

He said that payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement was ranked by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as one of the top five projects for Northeast Tennessee last year.

Grandy also pointed to the move by Crown Laboratories, a local skin care company, to relocate its corporate headquarters to 207 Mockingbird Lane, Johnson City. The building previously served as home for NN Inc., a global manufacturer, that moved out of state.

The mayor said Crown will now add 200 new jobs at that location.

“We were in jeopardy of losing the whole operation to Dallas, Texas,” Grandy said.

Alicia Summers, vice president of business development for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, told Industrial Board members that landing Ebm-pabst has helped pave the way for state funding to improve the county’s industrial park. She said one example is a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

She said that $2.7 million grant will be used to construct a new road in the industrial park to a cul-de-sac near Blalock Road. The road construction project comes at no cost to the county.

The project includes installing a traffic signal and making improvements to the entrance of the industrial park at Precision Boulevard off U.S. Highway 11E.

Industrial Board members voted Friday for the county to allocate $40,500 needed to qualify for a $94,500 site development matching grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The grant will help the county to prepare a master plan for a 37-acre tract in the industrial park near the road extension.

“We will be taking a deep dive into a master plan for that property,” Summers said.

Grandy and Summers also told the Industrial Board that the county and state economic development officials are working with the owners of the former Bush Hog building in the industrial park to market the 350,000-square-foot facility.

The building — which they said is one of the largest buildings of its type available in Northeast Tennessee —  has been vacant since Alo Tennessee Inc. moved its operations to South Carolina at the end of December.

“It is currently being marketed by a national firm,” Summers said.

Board members also voted to spend as much as $10,000 for the Washington County Highway Department to repair a sizable sinkhole that has developed in the Telford industrial park.

“The sinkhole has become a man cave,” Grandy said.

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