NASHVILLE — Tennessee officials have kept their end of a bargain that helped bring the largest private economic investment in rural Bledsoe County's history last month.
State Funding Board members last week approved a $3 million FastTrack economic development grant. It's part of Tennessee government's effort to support Textile Corp. of America's $27.1 million decision to buy and upgrade a vacant 186,000-square-foot factory in Pikeville.
The new company, owned by Chattanooga developer and businessman Ed Cagle, plans to start production of apparel, bedding and linens this fall. Company officials said they hope to quickly increase the staff to 1,000 employees and begin hiring and training workers in the next month or so.
According to a letter written by state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe to Comptroller Justin Wilson, a funding board member, the $3 million is actually being awarded to the Bledsoe County Industrial Development Board Corporation for the benefit of Textile Corporation of America.
Rolfe says in his letter that the money is to "offset the costs" the company "will incur in renovations of the facility. The project activities would not be eligible for the FastTrack Infrastructure Development Program."
The company, Rolfe says, has "committed to create 1,000 net new jobs" as well as make a $27.1 million capital investment "within five years." Textile Corporation of America will have an "average wage" of $10.22 per hour for the new positions.
"This project will have an exceptional impact," Rolfe added.
"I am loving it," said state Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, who represents Bledsoe County, on Monday. "I think this company will be very, very happy moving to Bledsoe."
Travis also represents Rhea County, where in May Finland-based Nokian Tyres announced it was investing $360 million in a new tire manufacturing facility in Dayton. The factory will employ at least 400 workers.
"Rural Tennessee is on fire right now," Travis said of economic development locating outside urban areas. "Of course, Tennessee itself is on fire. You can see with the unemployment rates."
Tennessee's unemployment rates last month sank to a new record low of 3.4 percent.
"It's exciting times, and in rural counties like Bledsoe, it's just going to be a giant shot in the arm," Travis said, calling it a "blessing for everyone."
Contact Andy Sher at asher@times freepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on twitter @AndySher1.