NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s top economic development official will ask the state Funding Board this month to spend $1.25 million in an effort to lure a “major” economic prospect to the Enterprise South industrial park in Hamilton County, according to a document.
Officials refused to say whether the money, which would be used for continued site preparation, is part of an effort by state and local officials to land a Volkswagen AG auto assembly plant in Chattanooga.
The German automaker has announced it plans to open a U.S. plant in either Tennessee, Alabama or Michigan.
“I can’t comment on that,” Mark Drury, an assistant state Economic and Community Development commissioner, said Wednesday.
In a letter dated Wednesday, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber put Funding Board officials on notice that he plans to seek $1.25 million in FastTrack program funds for Enterprise South Industrial Park.
“Hamilton County will utilize FastTrack funds for site improvement and preparation work at Enterprise South Industrial Park to potentially capitalize on a significant economic investment in addition to continuing to establish a highly competitive, development-ready site for future job creation through expansions by current industrial tenants,” Commissioner Kisber said in the letter.
He is expected to go before the state Funding Board on June 30.
Commissioner Kisber’s letter notes that Hamilton County and Chattanooga officials have “invested heavily” in previous site improvements at the Tyner area facility.
“With the potential of a major investment and the necessity of having a development-ready site for evaluation, Hamilton County has requested assistance from the state for site improvements and preparation work,” Commission Kisber’s letter continues.
The total costs of site preparation are pegged at $1.8 million, according to the letter. In addition to the state’s $1.25 million in FastTrack funds, Hamilton County would have to bear the remaining costs of about $550,000, according to figures cited in the letter.
Earlier this month, the Hamilton County Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing County Mayor Claude Ramsey to apply for up to $750,000 in state funds for site improvements that the resolution said were “needed at Enterprise South industrial park to support continuing investment.”
That resolution required an in-kind match of $321,430 from Hamilton County.
At the time the resolution passed, Mr. Ramsey said, “we’re using our equipment. We’re clearing some trees and brush.”
Neither Mr. Ramsey nor commission Chairman Bill Hullander could be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Hamilton County also is seeking a state permit for work designed to prepare Enterprise South should the auto assembly plant come there. The work would reroute Poe Branch. A legal notice said the permit is needed because of “a potential automotive manufacturing or assembly industry.”
The FastTrack program enables state and local community development officials to move quickly on economic prospects.
State Economic and Community Development officials can spend up to $750,000 on their own authority. But any amounts beyond that require Funding Board approval.
The board is comprised of state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz and the state’s three constitutional officers — the secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer.
Last month, in another item related to Enterprise South, the commission agreed to increase a contract with an engineering firm doing site improvements at the old Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant. The plant is located at Enterprise South. The commission increased the contract by $780,000.
Volkswagen officials last month visited Chattanooga and reportedly toured the Tyner park.
Despite revenue shortfalls and cuts, Gov. Phil Bredesen and state lawmakers this year cobbled together $100 million from various budget reductions and reserve funds in an effort to lure what Mr. Goetz said are several major economic prospects to Tennessee.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...