Such a park is considered a necessity for the recruitment of supplier industries for the new Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South in Chattanooga.
Doug Berry, vice president of Economic Development for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, provided a progress report on attempts to find suitable and available property for industrial development and the lure of Bradley County as a potential location for suppliers to the new Volkswagen plant.
Berry said the recruitment team, seeking to identify future industrial property, has been working with owners of two locations adjacent to the Exit 20, APD 40 area. The two properties are each about 300 acres, with two owners on one tract and a single owner of the other.
Berry said negotiations have been ongoing with the two owners, but there has been an impasse on agreement of land value. “It’s about twice what we’re willling to pay,” said Berry, adding that negotiations have shifted to the second property.
“In dialogue with this property owner, I believe we’re much closer,” said Berry. He added that the price is still in the $4 million to $6 million range.
Negotiating the price of the property is not the team’s only concern. “Results of growth management meetings last year made us aware of additional concerns (from property owners on the south side),” Berry said. “I believe we can satisfy community concerns, which are mostly environmental,” said Berry.
He said the search team is also looking at the possibility of a non-conforming industrial park, with other businesses such as an office complex.
In addition to the large tracts near Exit 20, Berry said the recruitment team is looking at smaller parcels on highways 64 and 74 which are possible single-use sites. He said overall the team is looking at sustainable, long-term construction locations for property development.
“We’re trying to keep all doors open,” Berry continued, saying the search has also identified properties on the north end of the county. He said the north locations (about six in all) are around Exit 33. “We still believe the south is the direction we need to go,” he said.
Berry emphasized that available property is the gauge being used for possible recruitment of industry to the area, especially suppliers for the VW plant.
He said most available property has been developed over the past two years, adding that, “It’s difficult to find agreement on property value.”
Cleveland Councilman George Poe asked about the five suppliers which have already announced they will locate adjacent to the VW complex. Berry said these are Tier 1 suppliers. He said Bradley County is looking at Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers, saying the county might have secured a Tier 1 supplier with a prepared industrial location.
“We need a ‘shovel-ready’ site were permitting has been addressed, utility infrastructure is in place and preparatory work completed,” said Berry.
Asked by Commissioner Jeff Yarber if the lack of such a site has hurt the recruitment effort, Berry said, “Yes.”
Commissioner Ed Elkins asked Berry about progress of the demolition of the old Bendix (Honeywell) site. “It’s coming down, but not as fast as we expected,” said Berry.
Commissioner Lisa Stanbery asked about housing and residential anticipations. “We have seen an interest in people residing in Bradley County,” Berry said of the anticipation of residential growth from the VW complex.
Berry and Chamber President Gary Farlow touched on studies which have evaluated the return on industrial, commercial and even residential development growth. “You have to have a balance,” said Farlow.
In closing, Berry told commissioners and Council members that he feels the recruitment team will be coming to the elected officials this summer with a proposal for a new industrial park ... with a price tag of $4 million to $6 million.
Farlow admitted that industrial recruitment is behind, but added that the effort is progressing.