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A $2.5 million liquid natural gas storage and regasification system will be built in South Pittsburg to help fuel the economic growth of Marion County, officials said Monday.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.9 million grant to the South Pittsburg Board of Water Works & Sewers and Marion Natural Gas to help fund the LNG facility to ensure a bigger and more reliable gas service. The new facility is needed to serve growing companies in and around South Pittsburg, including Mueller, Valmont, Lodge, Colonial Chemicals, U.S. Stove and AZZ Galvanizing, Marion County Mayor David Jackson said.

Collectively, those companies employ over 900 workers and natural gas service is key to serving such companies as they grow.

"Our Utility Board has had this facility on their priority wish list for some time recognizing that we were fully subscribed to the East Tennessee Natural Gas Pipeline and could not buy any more natural gas," said Keith Garth, the utility manager in South Pittsburg. "During periods of peak use, we would have to curtail flow to business and industry in order to heat residential homes. Also, we have been subject to interruptions when the pipeline was damaged during tornadoes and storms outside of our region."

The new facility, which Garth said is expected to take a couple of years to develop, build and begin to operate, will provide extra gas capacity and resiliency during heavy demand periods.

The utility will provide a $574,000 match to receive the $1.9 million EDA grant.

"Without EDA's grant assistance, the city nor the utility board would have been able to afford this solution even though we literally had no other options," South Pittsburg Mayor Samantha Rector said. " Truly, this has been a collaboration of efforts supported by the city council, the utility board, Marion County, private business and industry."

Once completed, the project should help spur $72 million in private capital investment, Rector said.

Jackson the South Pittsburg area has enjoyed growth by a number of key companies and the gas facility should help the county recruit more in the future.

This EDA supported project is among the more than 370 projects in Opportunity Zone that EDA has supported across the country since 2018.

This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southeast Tennessee Development District, which EDA funds to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap for growth.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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