KINGSPORT — The Model City has logged $140.6 million in new construction across residential, commercial and industrial sectors and could be on track to double the amount of new construction and investment completed during 2006.
Nearly $42 million in construction permits were recorded in Kingsport for the month of October, with the city set to nearly double the 2006 pace for new construction and investment.
For the first 10 months of 2007 Kingsport racked up $140.6 million in new construction compared to a total of $88.5 million for all of 2006. October registered a single-month record of $37.6 million in new commercial/retail development, with Holston Medical Group’s new Stone Drive facility accounting for $31.8 million worth of the work.
Another $5.83 million in commercial permits covered everything from Six Sheridan Square in the MeadowView district to a new TVA Credit Union building, two restaurants, a dental arts building, spa and continued build-out of the Kingsport Pavilion on East Stone Drive.
Assistant City Manager Jeff Fleming said numbers like $140 million are probably not sustainable, but at the same time they are not inflated, given that two major projects in Kingsport — the $100 million Project Platinum at Wellmont Health System and the $1.3 billion project at Eastman Chemical Co. — have not come fully online.
“We’re not going to see those types of projects every year or maybe every five years, but these numbers do bode well for where we are and what the future might hold for us,” Fleming said, noting that projects such as these help with the perception of a city. “When you see a city and don’t see new construction activity that’s increasing every year, then you begin to question the desirability for development in that town.
“It’s important for us to log positive numbers and keep that momentum going.”
Residential development in the Model City continued at a steady pace during October, with $1.88 million recorded for single family and condominium development. In all, there have been 109 single family housing starts through 10 months of 2007 with an average value of $156,533. For all of 2006, there were 135 new single family homes constructed.
Fleming said he believes Kingsport is on par to match last year’s housing numbers.
“The national market has certainly tightened up and we’re not immune to its force. We still do enjoy a very favorable quality of life and cost of living with other communities,” Fleming said. “As more and more people move to Kingsport from other places, we have to be concerned with their ability to sell their home in the other place.”
In part, optimism is to be found in the fact that only four industrial construction permits valued at $7 million have been issued so far in 2007, the leading edge of Eastman’s five year $1.3 billion Project Reinvest.
“We are realizing strong economic expansion in Kingsport, but the success we are seeing today would not be happening without the support of a slew of community partners,” Fleming said. “While we can’t predict future outcomes, there are positive signs of continued expansion and economic growth in Kingsport.”
Kingsport’s strong construction results are clearly showing up in regional economic data, Fleming said.
The third quarter job report authored by East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Steb Hipple indicates that “the local construction boom is focused in non-residential construction, especially in Kingsport and Bristol.”
According to Hipple’s report, unemployment was only 3.76 percent in Kingsport during the third quarter, the lowest in the region. New job growth in the Tri-Cities was led by the construction sector, with service sector job growth also posting solid gains.