By COLLIN BROOKS
Legal lingo has kept the proposed Mullican project from moving forward, having been postponed at two budget committee meetings over the past week. However, that is supposed to change when the budget committee will have a specially called meeting on Friday at 9 a.m. in order to discuss the Mullican deal.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said that the plan being worked on is a proposed $1.2 million to be loaned to the Washington County Industrial Development Board from the general fund as opposed to making that a grant. That will allow the IDB to own the building and Mullican to lease it from them.
“It would be a formal agreement and that is a big part of what they are waiting on with the attorneys,” Eldridge said. “Because there are real limitations, under state law, on how you can use general fund revenues and we can’t take a chance that something that we do is going to come up down the road as to be contrary to what the statute allows.
“That is why we are going through this process.”
Mullican Flooring is looking to purchase a 126,000-square-foot warehouse at 129 Roweland Drive to store their products. That would help them increase production at their current facility in Johnson City and help to create 200 new jobs over a five-year period.
It appears that Washington County will be the only entity to come up with the $1.2 million, as Johnson City is not currently at the discussion table for this project.
According to Washington County Economic Development Business Director Alicia Summers, Mullican Flooring was looking at different options in the area before they landed on the current proposition.
“They had some options out there for adding additional square footage to their current facility on Woodland Road,” Summers said. “But that got taken off the table when the company decided they weren’t going to expand on site.”
Since Mullican Flooring has made up their mind on the current property, the city has not been involved in the discussions.
“We’ve been in discussion with Washington County about the financing of this project, we have not been in discussion with the city about the financing of the project,” Summers said.
Both facilities are located within Johnson City limits, which has stirred a bit of unease with a few budget committee members as to why Johnson City isn’t in on the deal. That unease could slow down the project that Mullican is set to decide on soon.
Questions about why the city is not involved are expected to come up during the budget committee meeting on Friday morning, but in reality, the county may not have enough time to see if the city would like to be involved, as Mullican is set to decide on their location — which also includes finalists in Wise, Virginia and Bowling Green, Kentucky — by the end of the month.
If the budget committee passes the resolution on Friday, the full commission will have to approve the resolution and they won’t meet until June 27. The project is also dependent on an incentive package that will be provided to Mullican Flooring from the state of Tennessee, which has not divulged what that package might include.
While Eldridge and other members of the budget committee aren’t pleased that the city isn’t involved, it could be some of the logistics that have kept them from getting involved.
Regardless, Eldridge was very open when he shared his opinion of how he feels about the city not stepping forward to join.
“Washington County is a full partner with Johnson City in this downtown redevelopment TIF. The county is all-in supporting every TIF request that the city supports and putting in county dollars from the tax increment, just like the city is.
“And we are seeing the results of it, remarkable redevelopment downtown. But we have this big picture economic development need that includes growing our manufacturing and industrial base, creating jobs and for whatever reason, Johnson City has just been absent from that process. Washington County has not just taken the lead, Washington County has been out front by itself, trying to attract new investment and job creation to Washington County. And Johnson City has just stayed completely on the sidelines.”