State grant kickstarts county's industrial park improvements

Gary B. Gray • Jul 7, 2016 at 4:56 PM

Washington County’s chances of landing major manufacturers increased Thursday when Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd delivered a $473,405 check for improvements at the county’s industrial park in Telford.

About 100 guests attended the ceremonious affair at Jonesborough’s International Storytelling Center.

Boyd, who also owns Boyd Sports, which now manages the Johnson City Cardinals, invested about $400,000 early this year for the naming rights of what had been known as Cardinal Park. It’s now TVA Employees Credit Union Ballpark.

The more than $473,000 will be combined with a $300,000 - $350,000 grant from TVA’s InvestPrep program and a $250,000 commitment from the Washington County Economic Development Council to help prepare a roughly 200,000-square-foot portion of the industrial park. TVA also will help the county market the sites.

“It would look a little odd that I would buy a baseball team in the city and then hand you a big check,” he said. “But it was a long process to arrive at which communities would receive grants.”

Boyd said 72 sites in communities across the state were eligible for various amounts of money for economic development. Twenty four communities applied, and 15 were awarded grants, he said.

The grant will help pay for an access road, infrastructure and construction of two “pad sites” at the industrial park.

In November, county commissioners voted to use nearly $1.2 million from the general fund to grade and prepare for construction a 67-acre portion of the 275-acre park in an effort to more quickly snag potential tenants at the industrial park.

The final project cost, including grading, engineering, preparing pads for occupation and permitting, is closer to $1.8 million.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said in November the money taken from the general fund for this project would be replaced by dollars from a future bond offering to pay for school and other capital projects.

The county’s portion will now be about $80,000 to $90,000, and completion could come before the end of the year, Eldridge said Thursday.

Eldridge has said on numerous occasions companies are seeking to get a return on their investments as soon as they can, and if the county wants to see an increase in employment, investments such as these must be made.

There have been 16 lost opportunities at the industrial park in less than two years, largely due to company officials who didn’t care to wait on the prepping and grading procedural process, and this move is meant to help clear that path.

“Without developed sites, all the county had to market was a hay field and a cow pasture,” Eldridge said Thursday. “We did not exactly have what CEOs were looking for. Wow. It’s a good day.”

The WCEDC commitment, as well as the possibility of funds from state grants, helped convince all but one of 25 commissioners the investment would pay off.

Commissioner Robbie Tester opposed the move citing the Budget Committee’s lack of action following a decisive vote by commissioners during the end of last year’s budget process to form a subcommittee to better vet how money was spent on school and other capital projects.

Commissioners voted 18-4 in October to form the subcommittee. It never met.

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.

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