Hoping to attract an auto manufacturer into the county, Jefferson County’s Economic Oversight Committee has announced plans to build a certified industrial megasite near the intersection of Interstates 40 and 81.
The committee plans to create a shovel-ready, 1,800-acre site that could be sold for an auto factory or a similar manufacturing operation.
The megasite concept was successful in Chattanooga where developers were successful in persuading Volkswagen to build a factory at the Enterprise South industrial park in Chattanooga.
By creating site ready properties near an interstate and certifying that infrastructure is already in place, megasite owners are able to recruit industry thus creating jobs. The Chattanooga project was built on the site of a former ammunition plant that had been acquired by the federal government and was later purchased by local officials.
The land targeted by developers for construction of the megasite is currently owned by private citizens. Some have an interest in selling their properties while others balk at the idea. The committee has begun sending letters to property owners informing them of an opportunity to sell their property.
Garrett Wagley, director of economic development for the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged last week that the strategy may increase costs, but said that “we’re so committed to an open process that we’re willing to take that risk.”
Other megasite projects across the Volunteer State have received financial support from the state. Wagley said that while the state is supportive of the Jefferson County effort, the county must still go through the certification process and see if there are any critical issues.
County officials appear to be relying on community spirit to see the project through. At a news conference, Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri said he understands the need for job creation, and that the megasite would provide them.
“What we’re all asking is for your support and cooperation and that you partner with us,” he said.
Clarence and Sandra Bittinger are among some of the residents in favor of the proposed megasite but are skeptical the project will bear fruit.
By Michael Williams