eyes Chattanooga, Bradley facilities eyes Chattanooga, Bradley facilities

November 30th, 2010 by Mike Pare in News

A worker separates packages for final shipment inside the 800,000-square-foot warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP File Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A worker separates packages for final shipment inside...

Online retailing leader is eyeing a pair of mammoth fulfillment centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties, officials said late Monday.

The projects would represent a $164 million investment and create up to 1,400 jobs, state and local officials confirmed.

The Times Free Press first reported the Amazon story on its website Monday evening.

Gov. Phil Bredesen said officials are working diligently with to settle outstanding issues on the proposal to build two 1 million-square-foot centers.

"It is my hope that we can bring these discussions to a successful resolution and create a large number of jobs for the people of Tennessee," he said.

Officials from declined to comment.

Today, the City Council may consider an incentive package for the company, with the County Commission likely taking up the matter later in the week. The project has been code-named Project Infinity in state documents.

Work could start as early as next month on the Chattanooga facility at Enterprise South industrial park if state permits are OK'd and other steps are approved.

Matt Kisber, state commissioner of economic and community development, said there has been lots of speculation about the company, which had been unnamed.

"Because of the need to move forward at the local level on PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of tax) agreements in multiple communities, we felt it was important at this time for policymakers at the state and local levels to know who we're in discussions with," he said.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said that in addition to the PILOT agreements, there are other issues to work through at the state and local levels.

But, he said, he has "high hopes of firming up Amazon's investment in the next few weeks."

"Complex project"

Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said Amazon would make "a great addition" to the local economy.

"This is a complex project. We couldn't have gotten this far without Hamilton County, Bradley County, the city of Chattanooga and the respective chambers from both communities working together to make this much progress in a short period of time," he said.

Bradley Mayor Gary Davis said the county is taking the necessary steps to finalize its local commitment to the company.

Trevor Hamilton, vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Amazon project has come together rapidly over the past couple of months.

"The company has a very ambitious construction timeline, so reaching resolution on the remaining issues is very important if we're to be successful in winning this project," he said.

Chattanooga officials have said the company could make a $101 million investment at Enterprise South, which already holds the $1 billion Volkswagen auto assembly plant. The distribution center's average salary for workers was put at $32,000 a year, officials said.

In Bradley, Project Infinity's investment could top $63 million, officials said.

Earlier this month, the Times Free Press reported that an 80-acre site near VW was being prepped for such a development, though officials declined to name the business. The site is near where Erlanger Health System is building a new medical facility and that was reportedly a consideration by the company.

A state document indicated that the unnamed company was considering a facility that would be 23 acres in size, about double the size of VW's new supplier park just across Volkswagen Drive from the auto factory.

Later, it was reported that a similar-sized distribution center was being eyed for Bradley just off Interstate 75 near Charleston, Tenn., by the same company.

Meanwhile, an official related to the Hamilton project said the state was being tapped for $4 million to spur the startup of site work at Enterprise South.

Drawings for the site work, referred to as Project ASAP (As Soon As Possible), indicated the facility could go up in four phases.