CLEVELAND, Tenn. — With an infusion of industrial jobs expected over the next few years, Cleveland and Bradley County officials are talking about how the community can get ready.
Earlier this month Whirlpool announced it will bring 500 jobs to Cleveland and close its Oxford, Miss., plant. Those jobs will replace some already lost here.
Then Volkswagen announced its plan to build an auto assembly plant with about 2,000 jobs at Chattanooga’s Enterprise South industrial park just a few miles from the Bradley County line.
“With those announcements from Whirlpool and Volkswagen, I think the school board and the education committee need to revisit what they have been looking at for the future,” county finance committee Chairman Ed Elkins told fellow commissioners recently.
“I think both those announcements will drive what we do in the near future,” he said.
The county school board plans to build an elementary school in the north end of the county when the budget allows.
But the board also has talked about needing a new elementary school in southern Bradley County and about expanding Valley View Elementary School.
“I think whatever we want to build, we need to build it in the next five years,” said Commissioner Bill Griffith, also a finance committee member.
The county has been installing water and sewer service in parts of south Bradley County in anticipation of residential growth, County Mayor D. Gary Davis said in a recent interview.
With VW just a short drive away, residential growth along the Hamilton County line is likely to increase, he said.
The Eastside Utility District in Hamilton County provides water to parts of lower Bradley County, he said. Eastside also will supply the VW plant, officials said.
“There will be issues and challenges,” Mr. Davis said.
“But I’d rather be facing these kinds of challenges than what they have to deal with now in Mississippi. That’s a tough situation to be in,” he said, referring to the Whirlpool closure.
Mr. Davis said the industrial announcements could spur renewed efforts for a bigger Interstate 75 interchange at Exit 20, something local officials have sought for years. Exit 20 is less than nine miles from the Chattanooga city limits at Ooltewah.
“But the question there is will the state have the money,” he said.
The Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Park in the south side is nearly filled, he acknowledged.
But some private land may be available for options or other arrangements.
Several Cleveland City School Board members pointed out last week that the expected jobs will require higher skills as well as bring in higher wages.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...