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NETWORKS, Tri-Cities Airport, Erwin get share of state site development funds

Hank Hayes • May 19, 2018 at 8:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Oversized ceremonial checks totaling $2 million were displayed Friday during a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) event to highlight site development grant awards.

NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership is getting $1 million to develop rail access at Partnership Park II in Bristol, Tri-Cities Airport is being handed $500,00 for Aerospace Park grading and the town of Erwin is receiving $500,000 to rehab an old building.

“The concept of providing site-ready inventory is paramount to the success of the future of our state. The fun part about this program is it is why we are really, really successful,” ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said at the event held on the Tri-Cities Airport’s mezzanine level.

Aerospace Park’s background: On the airport’s southside airfield, the plan is to develop a “build-ready” site for a future “maintenance, repair or overhaul” facility or other aviation-related industry. Part of the site is state-certified. Airport officials expect Aerospace Park could attract up to 2,000 aviation-related jobs. The Tri-Cities Airport Authority has sold $8.5 million in bonds to match future grants. Bonds will be payable solely from Aerospace Park net revenues, according to an executive summary of the bond sale. The $500,000 site development grant put the project’s grant funding at around $5 million, according to airport Executive Director Patrick Wilson.

To date, airport officials say more than $23 million has been invested in infrastructure serving the total 160-acre area, including grading a portion of the site, constructing an industrial access road and installing utilities. Twenty-one acres are certified as an ECD “Select Tennessee Site.” Ten additional acres are expected to be prepared by late 2018.

Town of Erwin project background: Rolfe called the location a “brownfield” that will be set up for a large industrial user who will have rail access. “That’s going to make the site very special,” Rolfe stressed. Tyler Engle, executive director of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County, said the location is a former glass insulation plant purchased by the city. “This puts us further down the road to secure a large industrial employer,” Engle said of the ECD grant.

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