Hawkins industrial board undecided on Phipps Bend spec building

Jeff Bobo • Feb 22, 2007 at 10:30 AM

PHIPPS BEND - The economy may be right for the Hawkins County Industrial Board to move forward with its proposed 60,000-square-foot "spec building" at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

But board Chairman Larry Elkins said Thursday there is still cause for concern about moving forward with the project if the board is unable to find a tenant for the building before loan payments must begin two years after construction is completed.

Last year, the Industrial Board obtained a $1 million Tennessee Valley Authority loan for the project. Interest payments on that loan must begin two years after the money is used.

Elkins reported to the board during a luncheon meeting Thursday that as much as another $350,000 would have to be acquired to complete the project.

The idea is to build a 60,000-square-foot shell building at Phipps Bend, which would then be marketed to industries. It's a formula that has been successful in the past, not only in Hawkins County but throughout the state.

"I'm sure the TVA would like to know one way or another, and if we're not going to build one we need to just back off," Elkins told the board. "If you look at the stock market, if that's any indication, the economy is doing fairly well right now. It's a weighty issue because if we are able to pick up another $250,000 to $300,000 you're looking at a $1.3 million building you've got to turn over.

"If you don't, then after two years we've got to start paying it off, so it would be imperative that we have that facility in someone's hands or leased in a two-year span."

Hawkins County's past history with "spec buildings" includes three warehouses that were on the Phipps Bend property when the TVA turned it over to the county. Those buildings were filled within a short period of time.

Elkins said it's a lot easier to sell land at the industrial park when there's a building already in place.

"It's a lot like selling cars," Elkins said. "If you don't have any on the lot, it's hard to get them to come buy them. It's easier than telling them we can get you one, but we don't have one right now.

"It's amazing the attraction that those buildings have to get new companies into an industrial park."

A committee of Industrial Board members has been established to study the spec building issue. Hawkins County Industrial Developer Lynn Lawson said he would try to schedule a committee meeting in the next week or two to discuss the matter and come back to the full board with a recommendation.

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