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Source: Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce
Targeting suppliers to Volkswagen and other companies, Bradley County economic developers plan to seek $6 million in public funds to buy land for a new industrial park.
"This is a make-or-break time for us as a community," said Doug Berry, the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development.
A new park could leverage investments by VW and Wacker Chemical, he said.
"We can't really afford to wait five years," he said.
The site at Interstate 75 and APD 40, the southernmost Cleveland exit, encompasses 343 acres, he said. It's about a dozen miles from the VW plant in Hamilton County.
Berry said the tract could hold 2 million square feet of constructed space. That's the size of VW's massive Chattanooga auto assembly plant, where the automaker is creating between 2,000 and 2,500 jobs while suppliers create more than 500 more.
An early concept plan for the industrial park shows a number of buildings, from 600,000 square feet down to 30,000 square feet, he said.
Officials have said that, in addition to the $6 million to buy land and design the park, it may take another $6 million for infrastructure such as roads. Berry said the first allocation -- probably in the form of bonds -- may be sought from Cleveland and Bradley County governments in 30 to 60 days. Then, in a few years, they'll go back to the city and county for the second allocation, he said.
Berry admitted it's not the best time to go to local government asking for money, but "the momentum is here today."
Economic developers already hold an option on the site, which is owned by Jones Lakeland, Berry said.
The ownership group includes Cleveland businessman Allan Jones, founder of payday lender Check Into Cash, Chamber President Gary Farlow said.
A new industrial park has been "a pretty high priority" for a number of years, Farlow said. Chamber officials previously have said the two industrial parks in the north and south ends of the county are essentially full and new space is needed.
"The next step is to secure the property," he said.
Dan Howell, executive assistant to Bradley Mayor Gary Davis, said the county's economic developers have a five-year plan, and the No. 1 priority is to identify and purchase a site for a public industrial park.
Howell said he's not sure how Bradley public officials will react to the request for funds.
"What kind of reception they'll get when they ask for money? I don't know," Howell said.
Berry said Jones Lakeland is the only landowner in the area willing to negotiate a purchase price within the appraisal range.
"Other property owners want two to three times the appraised value," he said.
Berry said 200 acres next to the site is privately owned and could offer even more space for development. Economic developers are looking at manufacturing and logistics ventures and office operations along with warehouse users for the proposed park, he said.
"It's a complementary piece to Hamilton County's efforts," he said.
Berry said plans are to ask Cleveland and county officials for debt-service funding, meaning the city and county would make the payments on the bonds.
"We may lose our greatest opportunity" if funding isn't available, he said. "That's the message we're trying to get across to the political and funding arenas. There's only so much time to create and prepare for this."
Berry said he may be pitching the industrial park for private development in the future if securing public funding isn't successful.