published Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Bradley Chamber pushes for public land

CLEVELAND, Tenn.—A $40 million project is taking a second look at Bradley County after a first look in 2009, a Chamber of Commerce official says.

But the prospect—a company that wants to build a 50,000-square-foot building on 10 to 15 acres—stipulates that “we have to have control of the site,” Doug Berry, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, told the local industrial development board.

That’s a trend the Chamber has been seeing lately, he said, with more companies wanting to relocate to publicly owned sites in Bradley.

With companies sensing an economic change for the better, public sites can mean faster development, the officials told the Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Development Board. And that trend, they said, emphasizes the need for local governments to acquire a large tract for a new industrial park.

Berry said he also has been in contact with an international site consulting firm that selected Bradley County as a potential location for its client.

“The client wants to move quickly,” Berry said.

The Chamber shows privately owned land to industrial prospects as well, said Gary Farlow, Chamber president and CEO, and sometimes prospects come looking for public industrial parks and choose privately owned sites later.

Having public land ready to show also expedites grants and state funding, Farlow said.

“That, in turn, reduces the burden on local governments,” he said. “Having public sites to show also gives us more flexibility in trade-offs and tax abatement agreements.”

Another prospect is looking for 10 to 20 acres, but it must be very near the Wacker Chemical site, Berry said.

Existing industry also is thinking about additions, he said.

“I’m feeling pretty confident we may have a couple of additional expansion issues to address,” Berry said. “It’s a good position to be in. Many communities are just trying to stabilize and keep the work force they have.”

The industrial development board is asking for $3 million each from Cleveland and Bradley County in the next budgets to fund land acquisition for a new industrial park.

In a letter on behalf of the board from Chairman Ross Tarver to the city, the goal is to acquire a 343-acre tract near Interstate 75 off a proposed new APD 40 interchange between Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 11.

Tarver said the site could accommodate about 2 million square feet of facility space, generate more than $4.5 million in annual property and sales taxes and bring more than 3,500 jobs when developed.

“We know both funding bodies are facing tight budgets,” Berry said. “But in difficult economic times you may have to spend money before you can generate strong revenue streams.”

There is still some public land available in the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Park in South Cleveland, officials say, and the board is negotiating a speculation building on some of it.

But, they say, it’s time to develop the next prospect-ready industrial site.

about Randall Higgins...

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 ...

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