Prospects for industrial growth in Hawkins County on the rise

Jeff Bobo • Updated Oct 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM


ROGERSVILLE — After a decade of stagnation, Hawkins County has already experienced a boom in industrial growth in 2017, and it sounds like there's more to come.

On Thursday, the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board concluded its monthly meeting by going into executive session to discuss a proposed tax abatement offer for a company that is considering building a new plant at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

In addition to that prospect, IDB Chairman Larry Elkins reported to the board Thursday that one existing Phipps Bend plant has finalized plans for an expansion and should be issuing a press release within a week. He also said another company is interested in purchasing the county's 70,000-square-foot spec building, which has sat vacant at Phipps Bend since construction was completed in 2010.

"We've got some expansions that have not been publicly announced by the state yet that we can't talk about until they roll out," Elkins said. "I know NETWORKS and (IDB coordinator) Rebecca (Baker) have been meeting with some other industries and talking about expansions, along with the state of Tennessee and TVA. They've not completed all those plans yet, but it is absolutely amazing what is going on in this area."

Clay Walker, who is CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, told the IDB that the public might not appreciate the amount of work on the part of Baker, his staff and the state ECD that has gone into facilitating recent industrial expansions.

Walker said Baker's “existing industry programs” are a big factor in why companies have chosen to expand their Hawkins County plants above their similar plants in other parts of the country.

"Communities that work on existing industry and focus on that get a lot of expansions, and don't have a lot of plant closures," Walker said. "Every one of the expansions we've worked both here and in Sullivan County have been very competitive with other plants. It's just like working a new project with the exception that you're already on a short list. You don't have to get through 30 (other prospects), you're in the final three or four. But still, it's just as competitive from that point on. Kudos to Rebecca and all the work she has done on her existing industry program."

With regards to the Spec Building, The IDB agreed to pay for a new appraisal of that property that was requested by a potential buyer.

In 2015, when the County Commission was considering paying off the Spec Building construction debt, its value was estimated at between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.

Elkins told the board that the most recent certified appraisal was in 2011, but a prospective buyer was wanting an appraisal immediately — as in, within the next couple of days.

Even if that sale doesn't come to fruition, Elkins said the IDB needs a current appraisal on the property because the amount of interest and inquiries into the Spec Building have increased substantially lately.

Not much could be released about the company being offered the tax abatement deal to build a new plant at Phipps Bend. Those companies value their privacy during the selection process.

The IDB has the authority to offer prospective new industries a property tax abatement in addition to incentives offered by the state and TVA as an enticement to locate in Hawkins County.

"We have been working this project for several months and this is the third visit that we've had from this company," Elkins told the Times-News. "It's an international company, so we're excited about it. We want to offer them as much as we can because we're very interested in the project."

Other industrial growth that has occurred in Hawkins County in 2017 includes:

* In June, Miyake Forging North America Corp. announced it would build a new 45,000-square-foot, $13.7 million plant that will employ 60 people.

* In May, Homeland Vinyl, which manufactures vinyl deck, fencing and railing at its Phipps Bend plant, announced that it will make "significant capital investment improvements" and create 50 new jobs.

* In July, Cooper Standard announced the automotive supplier will invest $1 million in new plant equipment and create approximately 98 new jobs at its Phipps Bend facility.

* In June, there was a ribbon cutting for a $1.8 million solar farm that was built on six acres at Phipps Bend. That solar farm will sell electricity to TVA and generate property tax revenue for the county.

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