The Jefferson County Economic Development Oversight Committee (EDOC) announced that it will pursue certification of a proposed megasite near the intersection of I-40 and I-81 designed to attract a major automotive manufacturer, associated suppliers and hundreds of high quality jobs to the county and region.
McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a leading site selection firm that has certified successful megasite projects, identified the Jefferson County site, to be known as the East Tennessee Regional Megasite, as a prime candidate for certification.
Five certified megasites in the TVA service area have been sold to major corporations, including VW in Chattanooga, Toyota in Mississippi and Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville, Tennessee. All told, those five megasites have generated $5.5 billion in economic impact and more than 32,000 jobs. Industry analysts say nine major automotive manufacturers will need additional capacity and be looking for the best place to site a new facility within the next few years.
“This is a game changer for Jefferson County and the whole region in terms of the ability to attract high quality jobs to the area,” said George Gantte, Dandridge Mayor and chair of EDOC. “Jefferson County and the entire region must rally around this effort because it is important for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. The certification process is not easy, and there are some significant questions we must answer, but the East Tennessee Regional Megasite has tremendous potential to help us create high quality jobs, a larger tax base and an enhanced educational system and quality of life.”
In a survey of East Tennesseans conducted in December 2012, respondents cited availability of jobs as the top issue affecting Jefferson County.
Gantte said a major manufacturer constructing a facility in the megasite, as well as ancillary suppliers that would locate near the main company, would draw employment from Jefferson County as well as from surrounding counties.
“This would have a positive economic impact on a wide area in the very same way that VW and Nissan have demonstrated in Chattanooga and Smyrna,” Gantte said. “It has the potential to be the largest economic development success story in the Northeast Corridor from Knoxville to the Tri-Cities. We plan to make it happen.”
An analysis by McCallum Sweeney studied many possible sites in East Tennessee for a new original equipment manufacturer (OEM) facility.
“We found that the East Tennessee Regional Megasite has the best potential to attract an OEM because of its 1,800-plus acres in size and its location next to the intersection of two strategically well-placed interstate highways,” said McCallum Sweeney Consulting Senior Principal Mark M. Sweeney. “As a result, McCallum Sweeney views the site as a candidate for certification as a megasite, and we look forward to working with Jefferson County through that certification process.”
The proposed site fits into a gap in the automotive manufacturing landscape across the Southeast and is ideally situated to benefit from surrounding suppliers but not close enough to directly compete for labor and resources with any manufacturers located at surrounding megasites.
“It takes up to two years to build a plant and even more time to plan,” Gantte added. “So, that capacity planning is happening now and over the next one to two years. It’s during this planning process that companies start looking for the appropriate place to construct. We want them to look at the East Tennessee Regional Megasite in Jefferson County.”
EDOC will now work with McCallum Sweeney to certify the site as a megasite. That work will take eight to 12 months and once complete serves to assure economic development prospects of the site’s shovel-readiness. To qualify for certification the land has to be immediately available; have all environmental and geological tests completed; be situated close to major highways, rail lines and auto suppliers; and have plenty of labor.