ROGERSVILLE — This has already been the most productive year for Hawkins County industrial expansion in recent memory, but it still has the potential to get a whole lot better.
On Thursday, Hawkins County Industrial Development Board Chairman Larry Elkins informed the board that an announcement about the county’s fourth job-creating factory expansion will be made in the near future.
The last time Elkins made a similar statement, at the October IDB meeting, Techni-Glass announced the next day it would be hiring 50 new employees upon completion of a $1.5 million expansion project.
Although history didn’t repeat itself Friday, Elkins said this fourth expansion is a done deal.
“We’ve got some exciting news that will be hitting the street in the next few days,” Elkins said. “We’ve turned in all of our (press release) quotes, and we’re just waiting on the state to turn their statement loose.”
Elkins told the IDB that 2017 has been “a remarkable year” for industrial growth in Hawkins County after nearly a decade of stagnation.
The first three plant expansions added 200 jobs at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park near Surgoinsville, and the new Miyake Forging plant announced there in July will add another 60.
Also, a $1.8 million solar farm was completed in June on Phipps Bend land that wasn’t suitable for any other development. The solar farm will provide a small income to the IDB for upkeep of the industrial park as well as a boost to the county’s property tax base.
But the golden goose the IDB is looking for is the sale of its Phipps Bend “spec building.”
Last month, the board approved a tax deferment proposal for a company that is considering the purchase of that structure.
The IDB also authorized a value assessment of the facility at the request of the potential buyer. Although that assessment is being kept confidential at the prospect’s request, Elkins said it came back better than expected.
That company has reportedly narrowed its search to three finalists, including Phipps Bend.
“(Last month) I told you that we were down to three sites — two in Tennessee and one in North Carolina,” Elkins said. “We’ve had word back from NETWORKS that they sent the appraisal on to them and everything is looking good, so we’re still in the hunt. Sometimes it takes weeks and months to get the word back, but they’re studying it. My understanding is they’ll be back for their fourth visit.”
The spec building has been a burr in the side of the IDB and Hawkins County leaders since it was completed in 2010. When the project was approved in 2008, they had no way of knowing the economy was about to tank, bringing industrial growth to a standstill.
In 2015, the value of the property, which includes a 70,000-square-foot structure, was estimated between $1.3 and $1.4 million.
“In my history, this may be the busiest year we’ve ever had as far as expansions and new industries,” Elkins said. “If we can just get this last one, we’d cap this year off.”