Catoosa expanding industrial marketing

Catoosa expanding industrial marketing

March 15th, 2012 by Mike O'Neal in Local Regional News

Efforts to market the county's industrial park, particularly to firms looking for a location in or near Chattanooga, are broadening.

The Catoosa County Economic Development Authority board of directors voted last week to support a Chattanooga-based firm's involvement in promoting the 50-acre site.

Mike Gray, of Panattoni Development Co.'s office in Atlanta, said such an arrangement will establish the county's presence in the Chattanooga market.

Panattoni, a Califorina-based firm that is one of the largest real estate developers in the nation, partnered with the county to market the industrial site in 2009.

"We want to cast the widest net possible," Gray said when introducing David DeVaney, president of Charter Real Estate Corp., to the board. "This will make it possible to better attract companies looking for property in Tennessee.

Gray said DeVaney's role will essentially be the role of subcontractor with all liabilities and compensation being handled by Panatonni.

DeVaney, who lives in Georgia but whose company is in Tennessee, said his firm actively markets corporate and industrial real estate to local, regional and national clients on both sides of the state line.

"We receive a lot of leads," he said. "Chattanooga has a lot to offer - except for industrial tracts over 40 acres. You guys have a tremendous asset in available land."

DeVaney and Gray detailed how the surplus of commercial and warehouse space available when the recession hit hardest in 2008 has shrunk and said that businesses are in the market for the right property, in the right location at the right price. DeVaney pointed out that millions of square feet of manufacturing and warehousing have been absorbed over the last three years.

Gray said he was encouraged by the early signs of economic recovery and that Volkswagen had "chewed up" all the "shovel-ready" industrial sites in Hamilton County.

Not only is the economy showing signs of recovery, the current governor has shown a willingness to aggressively recruit business to set up shop in Georgia, according to Gray.

The biggest hurdle is facing resistance from local governments and school boards when incentives such as tax abatements are offered to close a deal.

EDA member Jim Emberson pointed out that tax abatements have a limited duration and are offered for land that is otherwise only lightly taxed, if, as would be the case for county-owned land, at all.

"It is not a giveaway," he said. "It is something for nothing."

And even if the business is excused from paying property taxes for 10 years, payroll taxes are collected from its employees and they, in turn, pay sales taxes when they spend their earnings.

Aside from adding to the county's property tax roll, businesses that hire locally help the community grow in several ways.

"Right now, about 75 percent of our residents drive to Chattanooga to work, and we'd like to change that statistic," he said. "We would also like to see industrial, retail and residential growth."

DeVaney said he expects the future to see "blending of development" throughout the area.

"People from Chattanooga will drive to Catoosa to work," he said.