County makes push to accommodate potential employers

Gary B. Gray • Nov 12, 2015 at 6:22 PM

The Washington County Budget Committee agreed Thursday to prepare a large swath of the county’s industrial park in Telford to accommodate companies needing to move on investments much nearer their desired timelines.

Committee members agreed to move to the County Commission a resolution that would allow the use of about $1.4 million from the general fund to develop an access road, infrastructure and “pad” sites on a roughly 200,000-square-foot portion of the park. The recommendation was generated in the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee.

This area, which would be graded and prepared for construction to secure tenants, sits within a 67-acre portion of the 275-acre park, and could be expanded to a larger size, said County Mayor Dan Eldridge.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has awarded the county a grant worth between $300,000 and $350,000, though a final stamp of approval has not yet been received. This money is included in the $1.4 million.

However, the proposed development cost for the access road, grading, the initial “development box” (area prepared for occupation), engineering and permitting, is closer to $1.8 million. With that in mind, Budget Committee members also agreed to insert a caveat into their approval: That the Washington County Economic Development Council consider a contribution from its economic development fund to the project at its meeting next week.

“Today, we’re looking at 16 swings and no hits,” County Mayor Dan Eldridge said, referring to the number of lost opportunities at the industrial park in less than two years by companies officials who didn’t care to wait on the prepping and grading procedural process.

“The environment we’re in is one in which these companies are seeking to get a return on their investments as soon as they can. If the county wants to see an increase in employment, we’re going to have to invest.”

The county has about 85 acres available at the industrial park; the 67-acre parcel was added in 2011 and bought with a Johnson City Power Board grant and Washington County Economic Development Board funds.

Three companies now call the site home: Japanese companies Koyo Corporation and Nakatetsu Machining Technologies — both automotive related, a well as the Swedish company ALO Industries, which manufactures agricultural and farming equipment.

“The goal of the TVA grant is to assist counties with site development,” Alicia Summers, WCEDC business development director, told committee members. “We feel having the pad and access road definitely will help us recruit tenants, and TVA feels the same way.”

Email Gary Gray at ggray@johnsoncitypress.com. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.