Megasite would spark job growth

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

Jefferson County officials have announced a proposal for an industrial megasite near the intersection of Interstates 40 and 81.

"The East Tennessee Regional Megasite has tremendous potential to attract thousands of new jobs to our area," Dandridge Mayor George Gantte said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The 1,800-acre site would bring large-scale manufacturing and millions of dollars to the region, leading to a better educational system and a higher quality of life, said Gantte, who is chair of the Jefferson County Economic Development Oversight Committee.

The Jefferson County plot would join seven megasite properties certified by the Tennessee Valley Authority in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. In recent years, TVA megasite properties have been sold to employers including VW, Toyota and Hemlock Semiconductor.

"Megasites have generated $5.5 billion in economic impact in the TVA service area and created more than 32,000 jobs," said Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri during the press conference, which took place at the restaurant Angelos at the Point.

The work of certifying the site will be done by the consulting firm McCallum Sweeney. To be TVA-certified, megasite properties must be available for sale as a single parcel, and they must be served by utilities and ready for development. Certifying the Jefferson County site will take eight to 12 months.

The Jefferson County site currently is the property of private owners. "That's a little unusual," said Garrett Wagley, Director of Economic Development at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, in an interview. "We decided it was prudent to tell the community [about the megasite proposal] before we started talking to property owners."

Property owners were notified of the proposal by letter on Wednesday morning, Wagley said. Negotiations with them will take place in the coming months. The megasite land is to be acquired by the Jefferson County Industrial Development Board.

Landholders and other interested people can ask questions about the megasite development at an open house scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center, 1615 Pavilion Dr. in White Pine.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, spoke at the end of the press conference. "To rebuild the middle class in America, we have to get manufacturing back," he said. "That's what [the megasite] will do. These will be very good jobs, highly skilled jobs."

kburns@themountainpress.com