Economic options outlined
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Jan 20, 2013 | 656 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Economic development prospects came and went between Thanksgiving and Christmas in a holiday season that was more active than normal.

Doug Berry, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president for Economic Development, said the most significant opportunity was a German automotive supplier. The company first came to Cleveland in October and returned Thanksgiving week for a second look.

He informed members of the Industrial Development Board that Cleveland fell off the list after it was determined the spec building in the Cleveland-Bradley Industrial Park could not be oriented to fit the company’s manufacturing process.

“Unfortunately, they eliminated us from consideration and as I understand, they are looking at a greenfield site [previously undeveloped] in McMinn County, in Meigs County, and at an existing building in Knox County,” Berry said.

“What we are seeing are a lot of prospects, particularly foreign companies right now. They still seem to think there is a level of hunger for jobs and investment. They are very heavily oriented to the incentives put on the table. We are not aggressively placing incentives on the table in early conversation, because of the feel we’re getting from here in the community.”

Berry said he was interested in the automotive supplier that would have meant a $10 million investment and about 70 jobs.

“But, I think some prospects are feeling like they would be a small fish in a bigger pond. That could be some of the dynamics we’re seeing and we’ll just have to work through that,” he said.

In initial conversations, some companies are asking for free land, no taxes, cash grants and no lease payments on the building the first two or three years, Chamber President and CEO Gary Farlow said.

“Some of the groups handling some of those companies seem to have built their expectations up, and when you come to the U.S., everybody is going to throw a lot of incentives at you,” Farlow said.

“Unless we’re reading it wrong, we don’t have to do that right now. We’re in pretty good shape. We don’t need to be as aggressive as we might be if we were really hurting.”

If incentives are the first questions before the project is discussed, Farlow said, that is not a good sign of a good corporate citizen.

A second prospect is in the range of 1 million to 2 million square feet. Jones Lang LaSalle site consultants has not specified if it is for distribution, warehousing or a combination of manufacturing and warehousing.

“We’re actually working on privately held property in Charleston for that project,” Berry said. “We were short-listed for a project referred to as Project Blanche in November. We have been notified we are on the short list of eight sites in Tennessee. They hope to come in February for a site visit. This project has a start date of 2014.”

Another project in December was a 15-acre greenfield site. The food processer would offer 50 to 60 jobs in the first year on a $20 million to $25 million capital investment. The company is looking at a 100,000-square-foot building 660 feet long on rectangular-shaped property only. The project would start up in the second half of 2014. It would consume about 4.5 megawatts of electricity annually.

The spec building was also submitted to Jones Lang LaSalle for another project known as “Plant 5.” It is a $20 million to $25 million personal property project.

“That happened around Christmastime, which is very rare,” he said. “They also require a 600-foot-long building which seems to be telling us it’s another food processer.”

“Project Ice Water” is a German automotive tier-1 supplier that makes component parts for engines.

“It is looking at a greenfield site for its U.S. headquarters and its U.S.-based manufacturing operations. It is a $160 million investment and 300 jobs. We submitted a site near Whirlpool for that. It is a 25-acre site expandable to 40 acres. It is also a significant electrical load,” Berry said.

In other discussion, the city will post the Spring Branch Industrial Park site to warn against entering the property without authorization.

Also, two rental houses on the property at the end of Spring Branch Road will continue as rentals, at least for the time being, as the industrial park enters the development phase.