“Looking back, Bradley County had a great year. There have been a lot of great announcements made this year,” said Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis.
Although WACKER initially made the announcement of building a billion-dollar facility in Charleston in February 2009, greater news came Dec. 9, 2010, when the Munich-based silicone manufacturing company announced plans to invest an additional $400 million in the construction project and add another 150 jobs to the originally planned project.
The WACKER increases bring the total project investment to $1.45 billion and anticipated employment numbers to about 650.
“We began working on this project in 2005, so to see it finally announced in 2009, and the additional announcement of the added investment in 2010, has been truly great for Bradley County. It has been a slow process, but WACKER has stuck to its original plan of building since its initial announcement in 2009,” said Davis.
Site work for WACKER began in December with expectations to become fully operational by late 2013 or early 2014.
Whirlpool Corporation made its major announcement in September 2010 of building a new 1.4 million square-foot manufacturing plant and distribution center. Less than three years ago, the leading appliance manufacturer announced the closure of its Oxford, Miss., plant and to move its production and processes to the Cleveland facility on King Edward Avenue.
“I don’t think people ever realized what that really meant,” Davis said. “Whirlpool made the decision to close a plant and it could have very well been here. And, they chose to close down the Oxford plant and move things here, which added employees,” he said.
After transitioning Oxford’s production and processes to the Cleveland plant, the company began a thorough review of the existing facilities here and made the decision to construct a new, state-of-the-art and LEED-certified plant and distribution center.
“It was a new dilemma,” the county mayor explained. “Whirlpool was charged with ‘Do we build a new plant here or somewhere else?’ Thankfully, in September (2010) they announced they would stay in Bradley County and build a new facility. That’s major news. We always want new companies to come to town but when one says, ‘We’re here and we like it and we’re going to stay ... we’re going to rebuild here — that doesn’t happen that often. It’s very exciting.”
The 400,000 square-foot warehouse will be built along Benton Pike near the Michigan Avenue Road intersection. The facility is expected to be fully operational by first quarter 2012.
From electronics to apparel, from DVDs to books, shoppers can find most anything at Amazon.com.
Just a few short weeks ago, rumors were officially confirmed that Amazon.com was coming to Bradley County.
The Internet retailer will be building a 1 million square-foot order fulfillment center in the northern part of the county. The facility, which is expected to be built by October 2011, according to Davis, is expected to add 226 full-time jobs with up to 600 to 800 temporary jobs during seasonal peak periods.
With these three major industries moving into the area, along with neighboring Volkswagen moving into the Chattanooga area, Davis said another great announcement was made in 2010 when the Tennessee Department of Transportation approved funding for developing Exit 20 and adding interchange roads. The interchanges, which are three separate projects, will run along Interstate 75 and Exit 20 and APD 40 and U.S. Highway 11 (Lee Highway).
“Although the work hasn’t started yet, Exit 20 will really be where we see major changes over the next few years with the new interchange. That area has been underdeveloped for quite some time,” said Davis.
Davis said although 2010 was a great year for the county with many highlights, there were challenges, too.
“From a personal perspective, one of the major challenges definitely was getting through the election cycle, successfully getting through the election cycle and how it can take away from the duties of trying to do the job on a daily basis,” said Davis.
During the election Davis, who has been the county mayor for 12 years, defeated opposing mayoral candidates Paul Krisle (D), Erin Fuller (I), Lisa Stanbery (R) and Chris Weir (R).
Davis, a Republican, said the biggest challenge from a county perspective faced in 2010 was balancing the budget.
“(The years of) 2009 and 2010 were very tough budgets. As a matter of fact, 2010 was actually cut to a lower level than they were in 2009. That’s not good, but with the economy the way it has been, it’s just been a way of life,” he said.
The county mayor anticipates 2011 will also bring budget challenges.
“There’s definitely going to be budget constraints,” he said.
Despite the major industries moving into the area, Davis said the additional tax revenue won’t be noticeable until 2012.
“You take Amazon, taxes won’t kick in until 2012, so that’s not going to help us this year. The additional tax revenue from Whirlpool, it’s going to be finished in 2012 and won’t kick in until 2013. With WACKER, it’s expected to be built and running by late 2013 early 2014. It could be 2015 before we see that tax revenue,” said Davis.
“I often say though that we’re fair and better than the rest of the state. It’s still going to be tough,” he offered. “We just may have to tighten our belts for one more year. The future has never looked brighter.”