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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 October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.
The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.
Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.
The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.
The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.
The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.
Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.
The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.
Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.
Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.
Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.
Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.
The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.
But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.
Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.
NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.
Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.
Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.
The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.
The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.
Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.
The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.
LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.
The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.
The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.
CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."
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