Meigs County clearing the way for industry

Meigs County clearing the way for industry

June 7th, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

J. Gid Redman, chairman of the industrial development board in Meigs County, speaks Thursday at the Meigs County Industrial Park, where four pad-ready sites designed to attract new industry were shown to the public.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

New industrial sites

The Meigs County Industrial Park on Highway 58

• 72 acres for new development

• Four pad-ready sites for buildings ranging from 54,000 square feet up to 120,000 square feet

• Hollingsworth Construction Co. is developing the site

• Located three miles south of Decatur and 12 miles from Interstate 75

Industrial employers

The biggest manufacturing employers currently in Meigs County are:

1. Shaw Industries, heat set yarn production, 482 employees

2. Polyform Manufacturing, plastic furniture components, 70 employees

3. Array Manufacturing, display cabinets, 50 employees

4. Storm Manufacturing, copper cables, 40 employees

5. Added Value Services Inc., clothing, 36 employees

Source: Southeast Industrial Development District

DECATUR, Tenn. - After losing several industrial prospects to other counties with better prepared sites, Meigs County Mayor Garland Lankford is determined to be ready for the next manufacturer looking for a plant site in Southeast Tennessee.

"We're gearing up to have four sites in our industrial park that are pad ready and can immediately accommodate the building of a new plant," Lankford said Thursday during a groundbreaking celebration here. "We're not going to be left out again."

Aided by federal grants from both the Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, the Meigs County Industrial Development Board is laying out sites and extending water lines for new industry at its industrial park south of Decatur. Meigs County has agreed to spend at least $350,000 of TVA impact funds developing the sites and recruiting businesses to help expand the county's industrial base. Rural Development is planning a $500,000 upgrade of the county's sewer lines to serve the new industrial sites.

Beth Jones, executive director for the Southeast Tennessee Development District which has helped coordinate the development aid, said preparing the sites "means Meigs County should be six to eight months ahead of the game" for businesses looking to build a new plant.

"Companies may take three or four years to decide to expand, but once they do they seem to want a place three weeks ago," Lankford quipped.

Meigs County is the smallest county in Southeast Tennessee, and the county's 9.8 percent jobless rate in April was nearly 2 percent above the statewide rate. With its rural location and lakefront sites on Watts Bar Lake and the Hiwassee River, Meigs County has relied upon farming and recreation for much of its economic growth. But to create more jobs and growth, county leaders say they want to capture part of Tennessee's growing automotive manufacturing employment, which now accounts for one of every three factory jobs in the state.

"We've got the welcome mat out before someone even knocks on our door," said Patty Hurley, director of economic development for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur.

J. Gid Redmond, a Knoxville builder who serves as chairman of the Meigs County Industrial Development Board, said the new industrial sites are located on Highway 58 only 12 miles from Interstate 75 and within a 40-minute drive of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

"We have a great quality of life, and a lot to offer so we're very hopeful these sites will soon fill up," he said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com. or at 757-6340.