Our city's good 'problem'

Our city's good 'problem'

September 18th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Chattanooga and Hamilton County have become victims, in a good sort of way, of their successful economic development efforts.

Having attracted the billion-dollar Volkswagen manufacturing plant, Internet retailer Amazon and more than half a dozen other companies to Enterprise South industrial park, it seems our community is now short on land for further industrial development.

Of the thousands of acres originally available at Enterprise South, only 64 acres remain uncommitted or not under option, the Times Free Press reported recently. One other publicly owned industrial park in the county -- Centre South Riverport -- has 75 acres left. The five additional publicly owned industrial parks in the county are full.

Meanwhile, one privately owned site, Valley Industrial Park, has seven acres left, and Bonnyshire Industrial Park has about six acres. A third private site, North River Industrial Park, is full.

It is perfectly understandable that the lack of acreage for large new industries has local economic development officials a bit worried. After all, as Tom Edd Wilson, chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, noted, "You're not in the game if you don't have the chips. We've got to go out and find properties."

Of course, buying new land and making it "shovel-ready" for new industries to move in won't be simple or cheap.

But think of the alternative.

What if far-seeing local officials and business leaders had not pushed for the development of Enterprise South and other industrial parks in our area years ago? We likely never would have landed the VW plant and some other desirable developments that have helped to stabilize our local economy despite the ongoing nationwide economic crisis.

The current need to find more land for development is a reflection of the fact that Chattanooga and Hamilton County have become highly visible economic players on the world scene. Companies want to build here, for reasons ranging from our solid workforce to our pleasant scenery and generally mild climate.

That makes it vital for us to smooth their path by ensuring that we have adequate land on which they can build.

It is a problem that we don't currently have a great deal of space available for new industries that might like to locate here. But that is far preferable to not being noticed by new industry at all!