A Brief History of East Ridge Economic Development
By Richard Cook from our partners at East Ridge News Online:
The announcement that Bass Pro Shop plans to build an 85,000 square-foot retail store on land adjacent to Camp Jordan created tremendous excitement in East Ridge.
Since 2008 city officials have tried to pump new economic life into the city by a number of means. Most have fallen flat, as evidenced by a proposed water park on Ringgold Road. Some have succeeded, like the opening of Speedway later this month on the corner of Ringgold Road and Tombras Avenue.
Here is a brief timeline of some of the events leading up to the Bass Pro Shop announcement on Monday, June 9.
2008 _ Under Mayor Mike Steele's administration, it is announced that a developer out of Birmingham plans to build a water park on Ringgold Road near Spring Creek. Ground is broken at the site where the Dollar General Store now stands. For several months there is anticipation about the construction, but the development falls flat.
Steele explained last week that the developer, David Mays, had a financial backer in Birmingham who passed away during the initial stages of development. When the financial backer died, so did the project.
Discussions about economic development continued, officials said. However, the "Great Recession" put the brakes on businesses expanding to new sites.
Mayor Brent Lambert said he was at a Chamber of Commerce board meeting and a budget line item was brought up about economic development. "Well, there's none to speak of," Lambert said the chairman of the committee stated. "Talk about stagnation. That's where we were."
2009 _ Elected officials included a $50,000 line item in the fiscal year 2009-10 budget. The money would be used to hire a full-time employee who would work to bring new businesses into the city. The position was never filled, however. Reviewing minutes from those years show that the money earmarked under the city's administration department was spent in part to augment the salary of an administrative assistant for the city manager.
2010 _ In April, city officials fly to Springfield, Missouri to speak with Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops. Officials are attempting to convince Morris that the site of the old K-Mart and Sears Essential building on South Terrace should be considered for his business to expand into the Southeast Tennessee market.
Steele said at that time that city officials had been informed by another developer that Bass Pro was looking in the area. However, during this time the Cumberland River overflowed its banks in Nashville inundating retail stores in the area, including Bass Pro. "Discussions sidetracked and blew up," Steele said.
Also in this year, the city announced that it was interested in acquiring the building and property that once housed the Hungry Fisherman restaurant. That effort fell through after vandals looted the building destroying mechanical systems in the building.
In April of this year, officials with Wolftever Development obtained an option to purchase America's Best Value Inn on Camp Jordan Drive.
In August, Steele said he was approached by Wolftever Development with the idea of acquiring more than 30 acres of state property on Camp Jordan Drive adjacent to Fire Hall No. 2. In order for this to happen, city officials would have to appear before a Department of Transportation committee to plead its case.
Initially, TDOT was not in favor of designating the land as surplus and allowing the city to purchase it, officials said. The proposal was being slow-walked through the state bureaucracy, officials said.
Rep. Vince Dean persuaded Commissioner Paul Deggs to take another meeting with East Ridge officials. Newly-sworn Mayor Brent Lambert, then-City Attorney John Anderson, Rep. Dean, Vice Mayor Larry Sewell and the principals from Wolftever Development met with Deggs in Room 103 of the War Memorial Building.
This time, the state had a more favorable attitude toward the land being declared as surplus, clearing the way to sell it to the city.
"We needed a real shot in the arm and acquiring this land would provide that," Mayor Lambert said.
2011 _ The parcel of land at Exit 1 moves through a subcommittee and on to committee to be declared "surplus." A survey must be done before any sale can be made, officials said. It takes about a year for that process to be completed.
During this time, the state legislature is considering a bill called the Border Region Retail Tourism Development Act. It's aim is to "increase tourism and the competitiveness of this state with bordering states," according to TCA 7-40-102. "It empowers local governments to encourage the development of 'extraordinary' retail or tourism facilities, including shopping, recreational, and other activities."
East Ridge officials meet with state officials to explore the idea of qualifying to participate in development under the "Border Region Act."
The legislation was geared toward helping businesses in upper East Tennessee, the home of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Sen. Bo Watson sponsored the bill in the Tennessee Senate.
"We looked at this and said this is astonishing at what can be done," said Anderson. "This type of funding mechanism is how Nashville funded Titans Stadium."
In August, a group representing East Ridge met with the Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue to apply and hopefully qualify under the Border Region Act. Bristol and Kingsport follow suit.
2012 _ In March, the appraisal for the state-owned land at Exit 1 is completed. It is appraised at about $127,000. The city sells the land to Wolftever for about $150,000. That figure includes expenses the city incurred in buying it from the state.
Wolftever's John Healy said that in initial meetings with city officials, he told them that the entire site would have to be raised. This would cost a great deal of money and that the developers would need help in shouldering the financial burden.
Healy said that Wolftever went through dozens of renditions of how the property could be developed. The truth, he said, was that the money wasn't there to do it.
"When we bought it, at that time the city didn't agree to put any money into the deal," Healy said. "All along out intention has been to never flip the property but to develop it.
"The major thing to happen was the Border Region Act," he continued. This deal would not have happened without Border Region, period."
The Border Region Act passes the legislature and East Ridge, Bristol and Kingsport are the only three cities in Tennessee to qualify under the the legislation.
2013 _ Developers timber the site and clear the land at the site. Healy said that Wolftever did not have the approval to fall trees on state-owned land bordering I-75. He said the value in that land is the "visibility of 100,000 vehicles a day driving up and down the interstate."
Healy said that from the beginning Bass Pro Shops was the number one choice for a tenant at the Exit 1 site. Non-disclosure agreements prohibited Wolftever representatives from discussing any deals, Healy said.
2014 _ Wolftever got permission from TDOT to cut the trees along I-75, giving any potential tenant the valuable visibility it desired. Healy said the inability to clear the TDOT land kept the project from moving forward. Once that was done, things began to move fast.
In a special called meeting on June 6, the council passed a resolution pledging $5 million to "provide financial assistance and incentives" to move forward with the development at Exit 1.
The city had previously established an Industrial Development Board. The board was a requirement under the Border Region Act, officials said.
On June 9, the board met for the first time in the training room at City Hall. As the members of the new board were walking into the meeting, it was announced through a press release from Bass Pro Shops that it would build a new store at Exit 1.
Rep. Dean may have said it best: "It's not government's place to create jobs. It's government's job to create an environment where businesses would want to locate. This shows that the council can work together. That, to me, is more vital than anything.
"(Bass Pro Shops) is the triggering event," he continued. "The big bang is still yet to come."
More Business News
Last Update on January 29, 2015 08:36 GMT
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. In last Thursday's report, the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell for the first time in a month, a sign that layoffs remain low and hiring is probably still healthy.
Also today, Freddie Mac will release its report on average mortgage rates. Last week, the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 3.63 percent, the lowest level since May 2013.
The National Association of Realtors will also issue its December report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases. In November, the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose modestly as a strengthening economy helped nudge some would-be homebuyers
A number of companies will release their quarterly financial results today. Ford and Alibaba Group will release earnings before the market opens and Amazon, Google and Visa report after the closing bell.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve's outlook for the U.S. economy is steadily brightening. Yet the Fed will be "patient" in raising interest rates from record lows.
That was the dual message the central bank sent Wednesday in a statement it issued after its latest policy meeting.
Why is no rate hike likely soon? The main reason, the Fed suggested in its statement, is that inflation remains well below the central bank's target rate.
And it said the pressures holding down inflation -- mainly plunging oil prices -- have intensified. The Fed said it thinks inflation will decline further before eventually reaching the central bank's 2 percent target rate.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung lost the battle of the big phones last quarter as Apple's copycat large iPhone lured buyers in the crucial Chinese market.
The South Korean company said Thursday its profit sank last quarter, with an improvement in its semiconductor business insufficient to mask its mobile problems.
It was in China, the world's largest market for smartphones, where Samsung's dramatic decline was most evident.
Samsung accounted for nearly one third of global smartphone sales in 2013, twice as much as Apple. This year, it has dropped to about one quarter.
Apple Inc. was behind Samsung's latest reversal in fortune, launching iPhones with bigger screens that robbed Samsung's Galaxy phones of a key selling point. The company was already battling competition in low-end phones from upstart manufacturers such as China's Xiaomi.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the U.S. will work closely with Greece's new government and help Greece pursue long-term prosperity.
Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to congratulate him on his party's victory in Greece's recent elections.
Tsipras' new radical left government has vowed to scrap austerity budget cuts, tax hikes and reforms that Greece had promised in exchange for rescue loans from Europe. That's prompted a renewed clash with other eurozone countries about whether to cut Greece off.
The White House says Obama told Tsipras he looks forward to working closely with the new Greek government. Obama and Tsipras also discussed cooperation on security in Europe and counterterrorism.
S&P-Mortgage Rate Settlement
S&P close to $1.37B deal over risky mortgage bond ratings
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Standard & Poor's is close to a $1.37 billion settlement with the Obama administration and U.S. states over allegations it knowingly inflated its ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis.
A person familiar with the matter says the credit rating agency is expected to sign an agreement to settle with the Justice Department and about 20 state attorneys general. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the settlement isn't finalized and hasn't been announced. It may be completed next week, the person said.
John Piecuch, a spokesman for New York-based S&P, a division of McGraw Hill Financial Inc., says the company is declining to comment.
The settlement would resolve civil charges filed nearly two years ago accusing S&P of failing to warn investors that the housing market was collapsing in 2006 because doing so would hurt its ratings business.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine economic growth slowed to 6.1 percent last year, hampered by natural disasters, but still good enough to outpace most other countries in Asia.
Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said Thursday that the 2014 performance ranks the Philippines as the second fastest growing Asian country behind China, which posted 7.3 percent growth, and ahead of Vietnam's 6.0 percent growth.
The Philippine economy grew 7.2 percent in 2013.
National Statistician Lisa Bersales says the "robust performance" of industry, particularly manufacturing and construction, lifted growth in the fourth quarter to 6.9 percent from 6.3 percent a year earlier.
She says services contributed 3.4 percentage points, industry 2.5 percentage points and agriculture 0.2 percentage points to the 2014 GDP growth of 6.1 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's largest prepaid mobile provider, TracFone Wireless, will pay $40 million to settle government claims that it misled millions of smartphone customers with promises of unlimited data service.
The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that TracFone's advertising promised unlimited data, but the company then drastically slowed down consumers' data speeds -- a practice known as throttling -- when they had used a certain amount of data within a 30-day period. In some cases, the FTC said, the company cut off customers' data service when they ran over the limit.
TracFone's prepaid wireless service is sold under various brands, including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America.
Throttling will slow down the ability to open Web pages or stream video. According to the commission, TracFone generally throttled the data flow when a customer used about 1 gigabyte to 3 gigabytes. Data service was sometimes suspended at 4 gigabytes to 5 gigabytes, the FTC said.
NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's CEO Don Thompson is stepping down as the world's biggest hamburger chain fights to hold onto customers and transform its image.
The company says that Thompson, who's been CEO for two-and-a-half years, will be replaced by Steve Easterbrook. He's a company veteran who rejoined McDonald's as its chief brand officer in 2013.
McDonald's Corp. has more than 36,000 locations around the world. But it's struggling amid intensifying competition and changing attitudes about food. Customer traffic at established locations in the U.S. fell 4.1 percent last year, following a 1.6 percent decline in 2013. It's also trying to recover after a supplier scandal in China that damaged its reputation.
On Wednesday, McDonald's said Thompson will retire March 1 after nearly 25 years with the company. The 51-year-old Thompson was the first African-American to head the company since it was founded in 1955.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A 24-hour White Castle location on the Las Vegas Strip that opened to long lines of the burger chain's fans had to close for more than two hours to restock after its grand opening.
The Las Vegas Sun reports the restaurant reopened at about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The burger slider chain's first location in Las Vegas opened to much fanfare Tuesday afternoon. The nearest location had been more than 1,500 miles away in Missouri.
White Castle is in the Best Western Plus Casino Royale on the Las Vegas Strip between The Venetian and Harrah's Las Vegas.
NORTH DAKOTA SALTWATER SPILL
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A pipeline that ruptured recently in North Dakota and spilled nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater produced during oil drilling wasn't inspected by the state before being installed, according to state regulators.
Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the state's oil and gas industry, says it's common for officials not to inspect such small gathering pipelines before they become operational.
Ritter says the state has struggled to find qualified installation inspectors because candidates are often drawn to lucrative jobs in the oil industry. Instead, the state has to rely on the word of companies, which are required to file an affidavit stating that they've followed state-mandated procedures when implementing the smaller pipelines, which typically run from one well pad to another.
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