Sullivan panel OKs FedEx Freight site plan

J. H. Osborne • May 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A comprehensive development plan for a new FedEx Freight facility — expected to bring with it some $20-per-hour starting wage jobs — gained the Sullivan County Regional Planning Commission’s approval last week.

The Planning Commission OK’d a site plan for the new freight facility on May 20, said Ambre Torbett, Sullivan County’s planning director.

A staff report from Torbett’s office indicates FedEx Freight will build a 33,000-square-foot building, plus loading areas and parking areas, on a 17.39-acre tract off Muddy Creek Road near Hawley Road.

The project marks the first development in Partnership Park One, near Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

And it indicates there’s not just one, but two, new FedEx operations set to open soon in Sullivan County.

The as yet not officially announced FedEx Freight location will bring with it jobs with average beginning wages of $20 per hour, Richard Venable told county commissioners earlier this month.

Venable is chief executive officer of NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership, a joint economic development venture of Sullivan County and its cities.

County commissioners were being asked to OK an application for state grant dollars to “fast track” extension of sewer and water to the new FedEx Freight site at Partnership Park One.

They did.

The total cost to extend that infrastructure to the building site is estimated at about $1.435 million, according to the resolution approved by the Sullivan County Commission. The state grant being sought would cover $750,000 of that cost, with $490,000 being contributed by the Blountville Utility District, $100,000 being contributed by Johnson City, and $94,000 coming from NETWORKS.

When Venable spoke to county commissioners about the matter in public meetings, he said he’d rather not name the company pending an official announcement.

Some commissioners pointed out the name of the company was in the resolution, which is public.

Later, Jack Lawson, director of economic development for NETWORKS, spoke to commissioners about the proposed fast track grant — and commissioners asked for clarification of where the proposed project is to take place, citing the nearly complete FedEx building visible from Interstate 26 near the Interstate 81 interchange.

That new $8 million facility is at Gateway Commerce Park and expected to employ 80 people for a start.

Details of a land sale were made public last month.

NETWORKS sold 18 acres in Partnership Park One to an existing industry in Sullivan County.

At that time, Venable said the company will have 80 to 90 existing employees when it opens at the new location, with room for future expansion and the addition of about 45 employees. Construction of the new facility is scheduled for completion in December, and the groundbreaking may be held soon, he said.

A real estate developer representing the company bought the land from NETWORKS for $500,000 on March 28, and the deed was recorded on April 11.

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