State approves $4 million for 2,000-job prospect

State approves $4 million for 2,000-job prospect

November 23rd, 2010 by Mike Pare in News

The state is providing a $4 million grant to spur the startup of site work on an Enterprise South industrial park tract where a 1 million-square-foot distribution center is being eyed, a project official said.

On Monday, Hamilton County sought bids for a company to begin the site work in early December, readying the land for a yet-unnamed company that could put up the facility and create 2,000 jobs.

In addition, an Eastside Utility District official said it stands ready to supply water to the business, which county officials have indicated is an Internet-related company.

"We're going to run the water lines once they sign a contract," said Don Stafford, the district's general manager.

The Enterprise South activity involves Project Infinity, which officials and state documents have said relates to a business potentially building a million-square-foot facilities in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

The two facilities, if built, could inject as many as 3,000 jobs into the region, documents show.

The 80-acre site is near the intersection of Volkswagen and Discovery drives.

Eric King of the engineering firm Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon said the $4 million state "fast track" grant would be used for mass grading and drainage to prepare the tract for development.

"Right now, we've got a hilly site," he said, noting that there's a 60-foot elevation change from one end of the tract to the other.

Mark Drury, a state Department of Economic and Community Development assistant commissioner, would not comment on the grant or the business prospect.

King said the project is on "a quick schedule," with bids due Dec. 7. A contract to begin work would be awarded shortly after the bids are received, he said.

The move to start site work before a company officially announces the project is similar to the strategy that the state, city and county successfully employed on the Volkswagen plant, located nearby on about 1,350 acres.

In mid-2008, while Volkswagen was deciding among Chattanooga; Huntsville, Ala.; and a Michigan site, the clearing and grading of a tract at Enterprise South was begun.

In July 2008, VW officially announced it was picking Chattanooga for its $1 billion auto assembly plant, expected to start production early next year.

Site drawings of the proposed Hamilton distribution center show a massive facility that apparently would be built in four phases with up to 2,300 parking spaces around the structure. Adjacent to the main building is a smaller structure, likely office space, complete with a helipad, drawings show.

The drawings refer to the site work as "Project ASAP," or As Soon As Possible, King said.