Business Boosters Have Big Hopes for Industrial Megasite in West Tennessee

Fri May 29, 2009 - Southeast Edition
CEG




STANTON, Tenn. (AP) Business boosters have big hopes for a West Tennessee industrial development site where Gov. Phil Bredesen wants to locate a solar energy plant.

The 1,700-acre (689 ha) tract near Interstate 40 is designated by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a “megasite.’’ Such sites are marketed by the TVA and the state as prime locations for major manufacturing complexes.

The Haywood County site is a prime location for a single, large industry or a cluster of smaller manufacturers, said Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Either way, hundreds of jobs would be created, and “from the community’s perspective,’’ Fox told The Jackson Sun, “it gets much of the same thing.’’

The Haywood site near the Fayette County line was reportedly a contender several years ago for a Toyota truck plant that ultimately went to San Antonio, Texas.

But now, business boosters hope the governor’s plans to put a solar energy plant in West Tennessee makes the site more attractive to developers.

Bredesen recently announced that he wants to use $30 million in federal stimulus money to build a 20-acre solar power plant on the site. The plant, which Bredesen called a “solar farm,’’ would generate enough electricity to power up to 700 homes and give Tennessee a step forward in “green’’ energy production.

The governor said construction could begin next year on roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure elements for the power plant that would also make the larger industrial site more attractive to developers.

“If we can get the site to where it is within 12 months of being infrastructure ready, companies would have already been there,’’ said Matt Kisber, state commissioner of economic development.

Development of the site would be felt throughout West Tennessee, said Kenny Holt, an economist at Union University.

“For one, it drives land values up,’’ Holt said. “The jobs will be better jobs, so employees can afford larger houses, so the houses constructed are more expensive. There also would be more need for rental property.’’