First Group Of Property Owners Commits To Options


Property owners representing 400 acres of the proposed megasite in Jefferson County have signed options with real estate representatives of the Jefferson County Economic Development Oversight Committee (EDOC), it was announced February 11th, 2013.

Since the Jan. 9 announcement of the megasite proposal, Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate has been communicating with property owners about the opportunity it presents to them and what the project means to the county and region in terms of new jobs and economic impact.

“We are encouraged by the progress we have made in our conversations with property owners,“ said Garrett Wagley, director of economic development for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. “With a potential of 4,900 jobs and $2.7 billion in economic impact, we owe it to future generations to fully explore this process.”

Ten property owners have signed option agreements with an additional five property owners committed to selling options on their property. Five of these property owners who have signed option agreements are located within the central portion of the site where an auto plant would locate.

On Jan. 28, the Jefferson County Commission Budget Committee recommended that the county allocate $442,000 in funding through the end of the fiscal year on June 30 for the initial phases of the project, consisting mainly of continued discussions with property owners on the site. Today, the full Jefferson County Commission has called a special meeting to vote on the funding.

“It’s very important for the county to continue this process,” Wagley said. “We are only asking for option agreements at this stage. Those options would not be exercised until an auto manufacturer agrees to sign a contract with Jefferson County. Property owners are very important to the success of the project, but all residents of Jefferson County stand to gain from a successful megasite project because of the opportunity to add hundreds of jobs and increase the tax base to support education and other vital county needs.”

The identities of individuals who have made agreements are confidential.

After the property is acquired, the certification process of the megasite will last approximately 12 to 16 months. Funding for certification would be evaluated in the next fiscal year by Jefferson County Commission.

McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a leading site selection firm that has certified successful megasite projects, identified the site at the juncture of interstates 40 and 81 as the ideal location to attract a large automaker because of its high visibility and accessibility, as well as its location in relation to other competitive megasites.

Nine major automakers have announced plans to expand North American production in the next few years, and the East Tennessee Regional Megasite will be perfectly positioned to capitalize on those expansions. Site selectors typically help those companies on locating, and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce works closely with those representatives.

Meanwhile, a University of Tennessee expert in economic research said Jefferson County, which is suffering from double-digit unemployment, cannot make significant job gains without a megasite.

Dr. Bill Fox, director of the UT Center for Business and Economic Research, has studied the impact of Volkswagen locating at the Chattanooga megasite. On a television program over the weekend, Fox said Jefferson County must weigh the likelihood of attracting a major employer such as an automobile plant to the megasite with the fact that “you cannot have big employment without one. When you can locate an auto plant, it is huge boon.”

Volkwagen created 10,000 jobs based on employment at the plant and at supplier plants serving the auto manufacturer, he said, representing more than $100 million in annual payroll.

“VW created all the jobs we expected and is already talking about expanding,” Fox said. “Nissan has many more employees now than on the front end of locating in Middle Tennessee. The knowledge that VW picked Tennessee is known across the world. It’s good in the long term for Tennessee to be competitive. It’s a success story.”

Wagley, who appeared on the show with Fox, said a survey in December showed that the availability of jobs is the No. 1 concern of Jefferson County residents.

Source: News Release from Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce