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WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Local News

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."A Brief History of East Ridge Economic Development

Tuesday, June 17 2014, 08:24 PM EDT

More Business News

Last Update on March 03, 2015 18:41 GMT

FINANCIAL MARKETS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks have given up much of yesterday's gains, as the Nasdaq composite retreats back below 5,000.

The Nasdaq closed above that milestone yesterday for the first time since the dot-com era 15 years ago. John Manley at Wells Fargo Fund Management says it's natural to see "a little flutter" after such a milestone, adding that it could continue "for a few days."

In the S&P 500, eight of the 10 industry sectors are down, though energy shares are up with the price of oil edging above $50 a barrel.

With nearly all companies in the S&P 500 having reported their latest quarterly results, S&P Capital IQ says earnings per share look to have risen a healthy 7.7 percent. But financial analysts expect earnings to drop for the next two quarters.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Freezing temperatures and drifts of snow likely took a small bite out of U.S. auto sales last month, but most automakers are still reporting gains thanks to the strong economy.

Toyota led major automakers with a 13.3 percent gain over last February. Others came in below analysts' predictions. Chrysler, General Motors, Honda and Nissan all saw gains of 6 percent or less.

Ford's U.S. sales were down 1.9 percent, as dealers lacked the inventory to meet demand for the new F-150 pickup truck.

Volkswagen's sales fell 5.2 percent.

Falling unemployment, low interest rates and new versions of big sellers like the Jeep Cherokee -- which saw sales jump 19 percent in February -- drove buyers to dealerships in many cities.

But bad weather in the mid-South and on the East Coast hurt sales. One Volkswagen dealer in Massachusetts says it had almost no customers for a two-week period at the start of the month.

BEST BUY-DIVIDEND

UNDATED (AP) -- Best Buy shares are higher today after the company announced it is hiking its regular quarterly dividend by 21 percent. The nation's largest consumer electronics chain also will give stockholders a one-time payment from proceeds of legal settlements.

The Minneapolis chain says it will raise its cash dividend to 23 cents per share from 19 cents, and it will pay shareholders a dividend of 51 cents per share culled from the proceeds of some legal settlements over the price of liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, sold in the United States.

LCD technology is used in consumer electronics like flat-panel TVs, computers, and phones.

Best Buy Co. Inc. will pay the special cash dividend and the regular quarterly payout on April 14 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 24.

EXECUTIVES-ECONOMY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top business executives are pressing Congress to give President Barack Obama greater authority to negotiate international trade deals. In a report by the lobbying group Business Roundtable, the CEOs say their expectations for the economy have improved but that business needs more confidence to increase hiring.

The group's survey of 120 executives found that more than half of the CEOs said trade would allow them to hire more U.S. workers.

Forging a 12-nation trade deal with Pacific Rim countries is one of Obama's top priorities this year. Most Republicans support broadening trade. But a majority of Democrats say such agreements put the United States at a disadvantage.

Obama wants power to negotiate deals that Congress can only approve or reject, but not amend.

PFIZER-PNEUMONIA VACCINE

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pfizer's blockbuster vaccine against pneumonia and other bacterial infections has won another approval, for use in European Union residents aged 18 and older.

Prevnar 13, called Prevenar 13 in some countries, is the best-selling vaccine ever.

It protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease, the most common bacterial cause of pneumonia and a top cause of death and hospitalization worldwide. It also causes children's ear infections, bloodstream infections and other illnesses.

New York-based Pfizer says more than 750 million doses have been distributed worldwide. Last year, Prevnar's global sales reached $4.5 billion, making it the No. 2 product for the company, which also makes Lipitor and Viagra.

Prevnar 13 is approved in more than 120 countries. In the U.S., it's approved for children from six weeks through 17 years old and adults over 49.

TESTOSTERONE DRUGS-FDA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration is warning about the overuse of testosterone-boosting drugs taken by millions of U.S. men, saying the popular treatments have never been proven safe or effective for treating common signs of aging like low libido and fatigue.

The agency says drugmakers must clarify that their drugs are only approved to treat low testosterone levels caused by disease or injury, not general aging. Additionally, the FDA warned Tuesday that the drugs can increase the risk of heart attack and said drugmakers must add that information to their warning labels.

The federal rebuke comes after years of industry marketing for new pills, patches, gels and injections that promise relief from low testosterone or "Low-T." The advertising blitz has pushed sales of testosterone drugs to over $2 billion.

SUPREME COURT-COLORADO INTERNET TAX

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A unanimous Supreme Court says federal courts have the authority to rule in a dispute over Colorado's Internet tax law.

The ruling Tuesday is a win for business groups that want to challenge the state's so-called "Amazon tax" that requires extensive reporting by retailers that don't collect the state's 2.9 percent sales tax from Colorado customers.

Online retailers challenged the law, claiming it violates protections for companies doing business in other states. A federal court agreed that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But a federal appeals court ruled that tax cases can only be filed in state court.

The high court reversed, finding that retailers were not challenging the actual collection of taxes, only a law giving state officials information about people who owe taxes.

EUROPE-TAX FRAUD RING

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- European Union officials say they have broken up a cross-border gang responsible for cheating EU member countries of 150 million euros ($168 million) in tax revenue.

Europol and Eurojust, the EU agencies for law enforcement and criminal prosecution, said nine people were arrested Tuesday in a fast-moving operation that kicked off early in the morning.

Those arrested are suspected of participating in organized fraud that deprived Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic of major sums of value-added tax payments.

Europol's head of organized crime operations, Michael Rauschenbach, said his agency has had a fully dedicated team in place for six years to fight such tax fraud.

He said the Tuesday crackdown sends a message that the EU is determined to pursue and catch people engaged in such crimes.



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