The Chattanooga area landed three of the biggest recruitment prizes in the country over the past three years, using an abandoned Army ammunitions plant in Chattanooga and sites along Interstate 75 near Charleston, Tenn., to capture more than $2.5 billion of new investment and nearly 5,000 jobs.
But with Volkswagen, Wacker Chemical and Amazon.com buying or optioning large tracts of industrial sites in the former Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant in Chattanooga -- the site of Enterprise South industrial park -- and near the Hiwassee River in Bradley County, most prime industrial sites in Southeast Tennessee have been quickly claimed in just 21/2 years.
"We were very successful as a community in recruiting new industry because we had these available sites, but there are far fewer of those sites left to show today, especially in Hamilton County," said David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp., one of Chattanooga's biggest commercial and industrial real estate companies.
"It's really hard in an urban county like Hamilton for the private sector to develop an industrial park, so I think we need local government to again play a role in assembling these sites," he added.
But Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he is looking to private developers to add new industrial sites.
"That's going to be our next challenge," he said. "We've got to find some new industrial land. It doesn't have to be government land and it doesn't have to be government supported.
"I hope that developers now will start stepping up and looking at those sites that can be configured and supported for the development that is yet to come."
Over the past three decades, city, county and federal officials worked to buy, clean up and redevelop the former Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant into more than 3,000 acres of industrial sites in Enterprise South and nearly 3,000 acres of recreation and school facilities.
Enterprise South helped capture both Volkswagen's 2,000-employee auto assembly plant and Amazon's planned 1,249-employee distribution center, along with nearly 1,000 other related jobs at VW suppliers and other firms.
But with Volkswagen, Amazon and others buying or optioning most of the industrial sites in Enterprise South, there are only 117 acres left in the industrial park for the city and county to pitch to new industry.
Industrial park investments
Enterprise South < $1.3 billion on 6,000-acre site in Tyner
Centre South Riverport/Industrial Park < $195 million on 319 acres along
Amnicola Highway and the Tennessee River
Bonny Oaks Industrial and Office Park < $73 million on 300 acres on Bonny Oaks Drive
Mountain View < $6.4 million on 31 acres in Ooltewah
Soddy-Daisy < Seven businesses with more than $10 million of investment on 65 acres
Silverdale < $2 million on 70 acres near U.S. Xpress headquarters
Ooltewah < $844,000 on 37 acres near Interstate 75
Source: Hamilton County Department of Real Property
Most of the sites in the six other industrial parks previously developed in Hamilton County also are full, leaving less than 200 acres of publicly available sites for new industry, according to the Hamilton County Department of Real Property.
DeVaney said his firm was working this fall with an industrial manufacturer that needed up to 60 acres for a major warehouse distribution facility "and we had a very difficult time finding land that was zoned industrial with utilities with the right topography."
"It got down to only a couple of sites in a 25-mile radius," DeVaney said.
Ultimately, the prospect found an existing building for its location, but De-Vaney said even the number of vacant buildings is declining.
He would not disclose the name of the company.
More land will open up at Enterprise South once the Army completes its cleanup of the land once occupied by the Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant. But Volkswagen, which has been given 1,300 acres in Enterprise South by the city and county, will have an option on another 1,200 acres for future development.
Combined with VW suppliers and the newly announced 80-acre Amazon distribution site, most of the land suitable for industry at Enterprise South is already taken.
NORTH GEORGIA SITES
49 acres < Walker County Business Park, with an option for another 500 acres, LaFayette
13.5 acres < McCarter Road, LaFayette
50 acres < Catoosa County Industrial Park, Ringgold
47 acres < Rollins Business Center, Ringgold
3.4 acres < Weir Property on state Highway 151, Ringgold
49 acres < Private industrial site on U.S. Highway 41, Ringgold
106 acres < Dade County Industrial Park, Trenton
39 acres < North Dade Business Park, Trenton
35 acres < D.L. McWhorter Industrial Park, Summerville
168 acres < Klatt Site, Summerville
50 acres < Happy Valley Road park, Rossville
16 acres < Industrial site on Holcomb Road, Ringgold
38 acres < Northwest Georgia Business and Industrial Park, Rock Spring
133 acres < Trion Industrial Park, Trion
Source: Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority
Most of the land at Enterprise South has been donated to prospective businesses, not sold, and the city and county must still pay the federal government $5.5 million by 2015 to pay for 1,024 acres acquired in 2005.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who will become Tennessee's deputy to the governor next month, led the decades-long campaign to acquire and protect the Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant site for a major manufacturer.
"It's the cost of doing business," Ramsey said. "You can't peddle if you don't have a product."
private sector solutions
But after spending or committing more than $20 million to buy and develop the Enterprise South for industry, Littlefield and Ramsey both urge private developers to take the lead in developing more industrial land.
Littlefield said future mayors and legislative leaders may need to sustain the development of more public industrial parks.
"But for now, I would really like to see private enterprise take the lead," the Chattanooga mayor said.
Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry said the county may have to help develop more industrial sites. But for now, he said, Enterprise South should handle the immediate property needs for growing businesses.
"I think we have enough for the immediate future," Henry said. "But I think in the not too distant future we've going to have to be looking for some more industrial property."
J.Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said having Enterprise South available within the city, close to both the airport and I-75, gave Chattanooga the edge in recruiting both Volkswagen and Amazon.
"Most cities of any size don't have anywhere near 6,000 acres of developed acres within the city and we had the good fortune and leadership to obtain that land and to establish it as an industrial park," he said.
While there's enough county and city land available for projects in the near term, he said, private companies probably will have to step in to develop new industrial sites.
"The private sector often develops industrial parks and, as we look to the future, I think we'll be looking at doing a lot more of that by encouraging appropriate private sector partners to develop acres that could be used for industrial prospects," he said.
Site history: Originally developed for the Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant in the 1940s; the Army declared the 6,000 acres surplus in the 1980s, cleaned up portions of the site in the 1990s and sold the remaining parcels to the city and county over the past decade
Volkswagen land: The city and county gave 1,300 acres to Volkswagen and built connecting highways to entice the German automaker to build its $1 billion auto assembly plant in Chattanooga. VW has an option on another 1,200 acres
New business: Amazon was given 80 acres for its $91 million distribution center; Gestamp bought 50 acres for its $90 million automotive stamping plant; eSpin Technologies bought buildings and eight acres for $1.4 million in 2009; Tag Manufacturing bought nearly 22 acres for $647,000; Aroma Release Technologies bought five acres for $300,000; Erlanger Health Systems acquired 10 acres and optioned another 10 acres for a medical clinic on Volkswagen Drive, and Eastside Utility District plans a new office and headquarters on 13 acres along Bonny Oaks Drive.
Donated sites: 2,800 acres was made available through the National Parks Service for a city and county nature park and 105 acres made available for a UTC outdoor classroom through U.S. Department of Education
Available land: 117 acres along Bonny Oaks and Hickory Valley Road
Source: Hamilton County Department of Real Property
Chattanooga Chamber officials also are looking to surrounding communities for larger tracts of land for future manufacturing prospects.
"People cross county lines all the time for jobs and we will continue to work with other communities to help the entire region to grow," Marston said.
Even though available sites are limited in Chattanooga, outlying counties have sites ready to build.
In Northwest Georgia, the Northwest Georgia Development Authority lists nearly 1,300 acres of industrial land available at 14 sites. The development group is marketing 39 commercial and industrial sites in the four counties of Northwest Georgia.
Bradley County in Tennessee successfully lured major investments by Wacker Chemical, Whirlpool, Amazon and Olin Corp. on existing or new privately held industrial sites in the area.
But the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce is urging local government to buy and develop new industrial sites for future public industrial parks.
Cleveland officials are reviewing the purchase of 350 acres for industrial use near exit 20 on I-75, but such a project is probably at least two years away from being ready for new business, said Doug Berry, vice president of economic development at the Cleveland Chamber.
"At this point, we are working with our private landowners in our community and trying to identify isolated sites that are available to continue our success," Berry said. "From my perspective, we need to from 500 to 1,000 acres of dedicated industrial and distribution property for the next 10 years."
Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340.