Updated at 6:38 p.m. on Monday, July 23, 2018.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has sold part of its birthplace as the federal utility continues to trim its operations and facilities in an era of leaner government and stagnant power demand.
On Monday, TVA sold 900 acres of property on the Muscle Shoals Reservation where it was first created in 1933 near the Wilson Dam. A family-owned development firm headed by Knoxville developer Brant Enderle, bought the property for $5 million after the Enderle firm won the bidding for the surplus property during an auction in April.
The property includes office, laboratory and warehouse space once used for munitions production during World War II and the Korean war and for fertilizer research in the past to help Southern agricultural development. TVA received congressional funding for such research, defense and economic development programs for the first 66 years of its life, but such federal funding ended in 1999.
"Selling this property is an economic investment in the community while preserving local recreational opportunities," said David Bowling, vice president of TVA's Land and River Management. "One of TVA's core missions is economic development. If TVA has property that is no longer used or needed for future business, it makes sense to partner with communities to sell these properties to help stimulate private investment."
Patrick King, a community development specialist, said the buyers are studying options for the vacant buildings and land at Muscle Shoals and have no immediate development plans.
"The family sees this as a great value and a great place with a lot of opportunity and they are definitely taking the long view of being patient and looking for the best use of this site," King said. "We've met with all four mayors and other business leaders in that area and we're looking to see what is needed and what opportunities become available."
Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford said the property fronts on some of the .most heavily travelled streets in the region.
"With the number of potential customers who drive by this site every day, I'm excited to see the opportunity that the private sector has to develop this site," Sanford said.
Bowling said TVA will retain roughly 2,000 acres of property, including the nationally recognized Rockpile Recreational Area and buildings that provide workspace for nearly 500 employees in the Muscle Shoals area near the Wilson Dam where TVA was headquartered when the New Deal agency was first created by President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1921, Henry Ford wanted to acquire Wilson Dam to build automobiles in the Shoals. Congress create the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 and transferred ownership of the Wilson Dam to TVA.
The sale of the Muscle Shoals property is similar to other recent disposals of TVA property that have led to new development, including the Edney building in downtown Chattanooga, which is now the centerpiece for Chattanooga's innovation district, and the 600-acre Google site at TVA's Widows Creek Fossil Plant, near Stevenson, Alabama.
TVA also is consolidating its office facilities in Knoxville as the utility, which once had more than 50,000 employees, shrinks to a staff of under 10,000 full-time employees.
TVA is no longer building any major new baseload generating capacity, at least for the next decade or two, and anticipates relatively stable or even declining consumption of electricity in its 7-state region as new appliances, industrial motors, furnaces, air conditioners and lights become more energy efficient.
Despite the end of TVA's role on part of the Muscle Shoals site, Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said the site's storied past highlights the potential of its future.
"In 1963 President Kennedy stood on the reservation and said 'the initials T-V-A stand for progress" and the people of this area are not afraid of progress." he said. "Selling this property to attract new businesses and jobs to the Quad Cities continues TVA's commitment to progress."
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340