State designation will enhance appeal of Washington County Industrial Park

Zach Vance • Updated Oct 26, 2017 at 9:16 AM

Showcasing a cow pasture just isn’t sufficient enough when it comes to attracting, and even more so convincing, a large manufacturing company to relocate to a particular area.

That’s why local economic development groups have invested so much energy into transforming Telford’s Washington County Industrial Park into a “pad ready” site, and most recently earning the designation as a Select Tennessee Certified Site.

On Monday, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development announced the 67-acre parcel off U.S. Highway 11E at the Washington County Industrial Park was one of three other state manufacturing sites that earned the designation for 2017.

Launched in 2012, the Select Tennessee program assists communities in preparing industrial sites for private investment, and establishes rigorous standards that provide companies, looking for a new location, detailed and reliable information.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said the program gives industrial sites “a step up” in the process of recruiting new business.

“Businesses looking to expand or relocate their operations often eliminate less-prepared sites. Certification lets businesses know that their projects can proceed quickly and that these locations have all the amenities needed to be successful,” Rolfe said.

For the last year, officials with the Washington County Economic Development Council, which now operates as the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP), worked diligently to prepare the site and get it certified by the state.

To qualify as a Select Tennessee Certified Site, a site is required to have a minimum of 20 developable acres, provide utilities onsite or have an extension plan, complete a boundary survey, document its environmental conditions, minimize its risk factors for development and be certified by Austin Consulting.

NeTREP CEO Mitch Miller credited Alicia Summers, vice president of business development, for working with state officials and Austin Consulting advisors to get the process completed.

The entire application takes up 30 pages and requires information on everything from nearby emergency responders, wildlife inhabitants and natural disaster probabilities.

By having the entire site prepared for construction, Miller estimated the designation reduces a prospective company’s construction timeline by four to six months.

Miller’s attention is currently centered on an Oct. 31 deadline to apply for a state grant that could help possibly expand the Washington County Industrial Park’s acreage.

“Basically, the end of October is when applications are due for the grant, but we have to have the work completed out at the Industrial Park to be able to apply. So we’re really right there at the edge, and we might wind up having to wait until next year to apply,” Miller said.

During its September meeting, Washington County commissioners approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Dan Eldridge to pursue purchasing a 37-acre lot, owned by Mary Sanders, adjacent to the Washington County Industrial Park. Eldridge will have until Jan. 2 to buy the land for $565,500 before the option expires.

The Washington County Industrial Park currently consists of a 21-acre site, which could accomodate a 150,000 square-foot building footprint, and a 67-acre site, which can house an approximately 450,000 square-foot building.

Currently there are 52 sites certified through the Select Tennessee Certified program. Since its inception, 11 companies have invested more than $1 billion in capital to construct facilities on certified sites, and those facilities have created an estimated 4,100 jobs.

As prospects continue touring the Washington County Industrial Park’s two plots, Miller is optimistic the land will be occupied within the next year or two. Between November 2016 and May 2017, officials toured eight corporate prospects around the site.

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.