Business owners eying areas outside Walker County, Ga., for $20 million project

Business owners eying areas outside Walker County, Ga., for $20 million project

February 13th, 2018 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Larry Brooks is shown in this 2014 staff file photo.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

A $20 million investment in a new factory in the Chattanooga area is planned by a pair of businessmen who already have a couple of Walker County, Ga., ventures.

But the business owners said they're exploring sites outside of Walker County for the new factory, saying they've been "disadvantaged" in that county.

"We really found out that neighboring counties and states are much more attractive to put that business in," said Will Dendy, who co-owns Dixie Dye and Chemical and Dixie Color with Lee Starks.

The new extrusion plant would make fibers used in bath mats and area rugs. Servicing the micro-fiber industry, it would initially employ 50 people and eventually 100, the co-owners said.

The duo said while they're still talking with Walker officials about the new factory, they're also looking at Hamilton County, Chattooga County, Ga., and Cherokee County, Ala.

The owners mentioned property tax increases which took place last year in Walker County, but business incentives are even more of an issue.

"It's less because of tax increases, but they've offered less tax incentives," Dendy said. "Never once did [the county say] let's figure out a better way to do business."

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield

Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Dendy said the discussions with Chattooga and the city of Trion, Ga., "have gone positive. It's going to be difficult for anyone to show us the same type of receptiveness."

Starks said the businessmen are within 60 to 90 days from making a formal announcement, with plans to be generating new product by Feb. 1, 2019.

"As it stands today, Chattooga County is the front-runner in the race for our facility," he said.

Still, Larry Brooks, the Walker County Development Authority's executive director, said officials there are talking to the business owners.

"We think we can work something out with them," he said.

Walker County spokesman Joe Legge said Commissioner Shannon Whitfield met with the two businessmen last week and plans to do so again this week.

Legge said the county needs to do a better job of making sure companies already doing business in Walker are being taken care of when they're ready to expand.

"The incentives are there," he said. "In the past you had to come to us and we'll work out what needs to be worked out. We haven't really been going out and meeting with industry leaders. That's something we'll try to do a better job of."

Last year, Whitfield signed a tax rate increase, boosting the county portion of property taxes by about 22 percent. He also passed a new, second property tax that would last for three years to pay off debt owed to Erlanger Health System for a 2011 loan. Whitfield also hiked building owners' public safety fees.

However, Legge said Walker is better positioned than some other neighbors to offer financial incentives to business, noting it can abate school taxes.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.


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