By Anne Cosgrove
From the September/October 2022 Issue
In Chattanooga, Tennessee a continued focus on delivering world-class internet speeds led EPB, the municipal utility there, to launch the first comprehensively available Gig-speed internet service in the United States (in 2010) and the first 10-Gig internet service (in 2015). And in August EPB launched the nation’s first community-wide 25 gigabits per second (25,000 Mbps) internet service to all residential and commercial customers over a 100% fiber optic network with symmetrical upload and download speeds.
Through a partnership with Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Convention Center is EPB’s first 25 Gig customer, making it the first convention center worldwide to offer these speeds over a broadband network.
Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga each dedicated $151,000 in infrastructure funding to cover the cost of installing new networking equipment and Wi-Fi access points throughout the convention center as well as much of the cost of providing multi-gig connectivity for the next five years.
“The new 25 Gig internet service gives our Convention Center a major competitive advantage in drawing business conferences, conventions, e-gaming competitions, and other events that bring tens of thousands of visitors and many millions of dollars in spending into our local economy,” said then Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. “Throughout my time as Mayor, I’ve placed a primary focus on supporting new economic opportunities for the people of Hamilton County. I’m proud to stand with the Hamilton County Commission, the City of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Tourism Co., the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and EPB in launching this new job creation tool which will serve our community for many years to come.”
“EPB has continuously pushed the boundaries of what a utility can do for a city, and by launching 25-gigabit per second internet service community-wide, we have solidified Chattanooga’s competitive advantage as the premier destination for the country’s emerging knowledge innovation economy,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.
In launching the 25 Gig internet service, EPB continues to partner with Arista Networks, which is providing the equipment to upgrade the convention space to Wi-Fi 6 with multi-gig PoE campus switching platform. This provides Conference Center visitors with high connection speeds on the wireless and wired networks. Arista’s security capabilities which include WIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention System) coupled with IPFIX will ensure the security of visitor connections.
“Many of the people who visit Chattanooga think of our reputation as the ‘Scenic City,’ but when they experience our ‘Gig City’ internet speeds combined with our scenery and lifestyle, many businesses and families want to stay,” said Barry White, President and CEO of Chattanooga Tourism Co. “EPB’s commitment to leading edge innovation is a lynchpin in our community’s economic and social prosperity.”
Manufacturers Making More In Tennessee
Over the past 12 months, Tennessee has seen significant announcements from manufacturing companies, both new and existing in the state, to the tune of nearly $1 billion.
A recent expansion announcement is from Minnesota-based McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing, Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation company, that plans to invest more than $50 million to expand its manufacturing presence. McNeilus, manufacturer of purpose-built commercial vehicles and equipment, is finalizing provisions to occupy a new facility in Murfreesboro, which will bring 230 new jobs to the area over the next five years.
Stuart McWhorter, Tennessee Department of Community & Economic Development (TNECD) Commissioner, said of the news, “With more than 2,600 manufacturing businesses across the state, Tennessee is primed to welcome McNeilus to the Volunteer State. We thank this company for its decision to locate in Rutherford County and believe Murfreesboro will be the ideal location for McNeilus’ newest manufacturing plant”
Japan-Based Kewpie Corp. Expanding In Clarksville
In recent news, Kewpie Corporation will invest $65.2 million to expand its U.S. subsidiary Q&B Foods in Irwindale, CA and establish new operations in Clarksville, TN.
One of Japan’s top brands for mayonnaise and salad dressing, Kewpie will create 85 new jobs in Montgomery County through its second Q&B Foods facility. The Tennessee plant will support Kewpie’s expanding market nationwide by increasing the company’s production of mayonnaise, salad dressings and other sauces.
“We believe that in order for us to truly contribute, Kewpie must become a part of Tennessee as a corporate citizen and thereby contribute to the continued success of Tennessee over the long term,” said Shinya Hamasaki, senior corporate officer, Kewpie Corporation and chief executive officer, Q&B Foods. “We will do our best to ensure that the Kewpie brand in the United States will be supported strongly here as it is in Japan and to deliver the products from here in Tennessee.”
Since 2018, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) has supported 15 economic development projects in Montgomery County, resulting in approximately 3,000 job commitments and $1.3 billion in capital investment.
“Kewpie’s decision to locate its second U.S. facility in Tennessee is a testament to our state’s successful and longstanding economic development partnership with Japan,” said TNECD Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. “We appreciate this global brand for choosing to do business in Clarksville and look forward to the future growth and prosperity that this project will create in Montgomery County.”
OshKosh Commercial EVP and President, Brad Nelson, said, “We are pleased to add production capacity in Tennessee as part of the commercial segment’s accelerated growth strategy. The facility will provide advanced manufacturing flexibility, proximity to supply chain and the expanded workforce needed to accelerate technology and innovation, while expanding our footprint.”
Project-Ready Site Grants
In May, Tennessee announced nine new Site Development Grants, totaling approximately $7.6 million. These grants are designed to help communities achieve Select Tennessee site certification and prepare industrial sites for projects. The funding helps communities invest in infrastructure and engineering improvements on project-ready sites.
The Site Development Grant program, part of the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, works in tandem with TNECD’s Select Tennessee program. Since 2016, TNECD has awarded 136 Site Development Grants across the state, totaling more than $54 million in assistance to local communities.
The grants awarded this round include: City of Waynesboro, Waynesboro Industrial Park; Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board, Site 19B, Clarksville County Industrial Park; The Cocke County Partnership, Inc., Smoky Mountain Innovation Park of Cocke County; East Tennessee Regional Agribusiness Marketing Authority, ETRAMA Site; Industrial Development Board of Rhea County, Spring City Site; The Industrial Development Board of the City of Lexington, Timberlake Industrial Park, Reeves Property; Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Lawrence County, Lawrenceburg Industrial Park; Savannah Industrial Development Corporation of the City of Savannah, TN, Boyd Property; and Selmer/McNairy County Industrial Development Board, Selmer North Industrial Park.
Applications were reviewed by an advisory committee made up of TNECD, Austin Consulting, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Tennessee Department of Transportation. Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Entertainment Industry Gets A Boost
In April, the Tennessee Entertainment Commission (TEC), in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Revenue and Department of Economic and Community Development, announced a new franchise and excise (F&E) tax credit program aimed to advance Tennessee’s entertainment industry. Companies approved as a qualified production can apply for a tax credit generated through resident and non-resident Tennessee payroll expenses and apply for a point of purchase sales tax exemption certificate on non-payroll expenses. Qualified productions include scripted and unscripted television, feature films, video game development, animation, commercials, and audio/visual postproduction.
The F&E tax credit is generated by Tennessee payroll expenditures for all above-the-line and below-the-line talent services being performed in the state on a qualified production. The standard credit generates up to 40% on resident and non-resident payroll expenses, with a 10% uplift on payroll expenses for Tennesseans living in economically distressed areas.
In addition to the tax credit, the program offers a point of purchase sales and use tax exemption on qualified goods and services providing an immediate and usable benefit to the taxpayer. This point of purchase sales tax exemption generates a savings of 9.25% to 9.75% on all taxable goods or services and tangible personal property necessary to the qualified production.
“Incentives play a pivotal role in the development of talent, workforce and infrastructure in the entertainment industry,” TEC Executive Director Bob Raines said. “The Tennessee Entertainment Commission continues to work toward dedicated and intentional strategies that reinforce and retain our creative class.” Since 2017, TEC has assisted more than 1,100 production projects, and nearly 10,000 Tennessee workers have been hired as a result of these projects.