IDB Requests Initial $2 Million Investment in Commerce Park

A proposed Commerce Park to be located in the White Pine community was the subject of discussion at the Jefferson County Work Session that was held Monday, March 13, 2017 in the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse. Several citizens spoke in opposition to the site selected for the Commerce Park, which would impact property on the scenic C.H. Rankin Road, Hwy 113 and Roy Messer. Citizen concerns included impact to local schools, increased county debt and heavy road loads, as well as the potential to decrease property values and quality of life concerns. Seven citizens spoke against the project, including Attorney Scott Hurley who represents multiple property owners in the footprint of the proposed Commerce Park.

Industrial Development Board Chair Larry Masters presented information to the Commission for consideration, including new numbers on potential job creation should the park flourish. He also stated that outside funding sources would likely become available with “a bird in the hand.” Masters said that the IDB has investigated several pieces of property and this location scored best on the rubric. He also noted that, though there is some opposition with surrounding property owners, the property only has two owners and both are willing to sell. Masters said that the IDB has kept the process transparent, even in the face of driving up the asking price, and that is how they will continue to do business.

Several Commissioners addressed Masters and a team of consultants that were on hand to offer information and field questions. Items of concern included the proximity of a Hamblen County Commerce Park that is already up and running but only 16% filled, bottom dollar funding which has been estimated to be around $15 million dollars, the ability to fill a Commerce Park with such extensive competition and infrastructure concerns. Commissioner Seal questioned the viability of the number of potential jobs that the Commerce Park could bring in and offered his own research that indicated a much lower job return for investment.

Masters and the Industrial Development Board are requesting a little more than $2 million dollars as a initial investment from the County Commission and hope to get the nod at Thursday night’s voting meeting where the request will be an agenda item.

This month the voting meeting for the County Commission will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse. The voting meeting was moved from its original slot in deference to the Department of Education’s Spring Break schedule.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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