Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry said Thursday he is also talking to existing industry about expansion.
“All of our existing industry is looking hard at potential expansion,” he said Thursday afternoon at a Cleveland/Bradley Economic Development Council meeting. “There is a lot of energy efficiency work going on and infrastructure preparation that can lead to good, strong growth for a lot of our companies. That shows we have a good strong industrial base.”
Berry assisted two additional prospects in representing 400,000 square feet of distribution space that could result in 250 to 300 new jobs with a total investment ranging from $80 million to $200 million. The unnamed visitors are considering sites in the Cleveland Bradley Industrial Park, Hiwassee River Industrial Park and the Honeywell site on 20th Street.
Berry said he also hosted Richard Cathy, senior manager of Global Location and Expansion Services for KPMG LLP, to pre-qualify Bradley County and Cleveland in anticipation of several clients’ plans for expansion.
Berry said he told Cathy they were more focused on storm recovery than economic development, “But he was insistent and scheduled a meeting and came in and filled out the survey form for me. That shows the dynamics and position we have in the market. It’s nothing more than people notice us and they know close deals, so they want us in their list of sites.”
He said the biggest issue confronting Bradley County is the continuing trend of compressing the time to identify, negotiate and close a site. The time window has decreased from 12 months to 60 days as was seen with the Amazon.com project.
“That pushes us to have sites ready,” Berry said. “Unfortunately, that puts us in a bad dynamic because we’re dealing with a lot of tight budget issues — we’re not matching with client demands right now.”
He said it was frustrating from an economic developer’s viewpoint to see great projects that would be a good fit — two years in the future.
For the month of May, Berry reported six inquiries. He could not submit a response to three of them because of specified site conditions. One requested a food-grade existing building or an existing building in an industrial park with no residential neighbors.
“There were probably a couple of hundred million dollars of investment we could not submit on because of unique site requirements,” he said.
The new Wacker Polysilicon North America plant is proceeding well. The main issue is finalizing documents for the new road directly into Wacker and Olin. The new road has an impact on the ability to sell about 300 acres of the privately held site the Chamber is marketing. He said it is a good site, but access is in the Walker Valley High School traffic pattern.
“A distribution project with 400 trucks a day is not going to do that,” he said. “We’ve got to develop a road plan that diverts the industrial traffic away from the school. When Wacker is built, we can tie into that road and avoid high school traffic flow except at the interstate.”
Amazon has the building walls standing and has about 60 percent of the roof installed.
At Whirlpool, all of the pads are graded and about half the roofline installed. Builders are on time to begin setting equipment for a new product line in August.