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Site development to aid in county’s Industrial Park expansion

Making an expansion of the county’s Industrial Park more conducive to economic development could have big payoffs for Washington County.
Though land for the expansion was purchased in 1997, along with additional property in 2011, no improvements to either have been made since.
“We’re essentially trying to sell a cow pasture,” Mitch Miller told members of the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee during last week’s meeting.
Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council, and Business Development Director Alicia Summers said a lack of pad-ready sites is hindering the recruitment of businesses.
A pad-ready site is a parcel for which the county has hired an engineer to design the property to accommodate a certain size of building. The property is then graded, and the necessary permits are acquired.
“There is a lot of lead time on getting those things, and companies want to get the new facility up and start making money as soon as possible,” Mayor Dan Eldridge said. “The county could automatically be disqualified as a site if the company would have to wait a year.”
Washington County’s providing the initial preparation of the property, including utilities, would enable a business to come in and begin construction of the building immediately.
“It levels the playing field to allow us to compete with other communities who have done this,” Eldridge said.
The goal is to develop a site that would accommodate a 200,000-square-foot-building on one of the developable parcels included on the 67-acre property, while a second pad-ready site for a 150,000-square-foot building would be developed on part of an adjoining 25 acres. A 1,200-foot access road from 11E off of Precision Boulevard also would be part of the project.
Miller said the county is looking at$1.8 million to develop the two sites and put in an access road.
“I would like to see us make a commitment to the road,” Commissioner Todd Hensley said. “I think that would be a good use of economic development money.”
Grants are available to help with the cost of the sites and the road, but Summers said 27 percent of the WCEDC’s applications have been eliminated from consideration because of the lack of development on the property for the expansion.
“Site development is critical to landing a project,” she said.
Summers is pursuing a grant from TVA of up to $350,000, and the county’s application has made it to the third round.
An application to the state will take a little longer due to the condition of the property. “They’re not ready to be involved, but we are on their radar,” she said.
In addition, an application has been submitted to have the two developed parcels named Select Certified Sites in Tennessee, which will aid in marketing efforts.
“Job creation potential is one thing not discussed in the development of these two sites,” Eldridge said. “More than anything else, we need to focus on developing jobs in Washington County, and this is the best opportunity.”
CIA members gave unanimous approval to move the $1.8 million request on to the Budget Committee, which will meet Thursday, Nov. 12.