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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, 07:24 PM EDT

More Business News

Last Update on August 22, 2014 07:30 GMT

AMERICAN AIRLINES-MINORS

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- American Airlines says it will extend its fee for unaccompanied minors to charge $150 extra each way for children between 5 and 14.

The change starts Sept. 3. Currently, American charges a fee on top of the regular fare for unaccompanied minors between 5 and 11.

The airline announced the change Thursday in an employee publication.

American says extending the fee to more youths will ensure the safest possible travel for them and match the policy at US Airways. The two merged in December to form American Airlines Group Inc.

United Airlines charges $150 each way for minors 5 to 11; Delta charges $100 each way for those 5 to 14; at Southwest it's $50 each way for kids 5 to 11.

WEALTH INEQUALITY-CENSUS

NEW YORK (AP) -- A report from the Census Bureau is the latest evidence that the rich are getting richer while the poor get poorer.

The study released Thursday divided the U.S. into five groups, from wealthiest to poorest. The median net worth of the richest households rose 11 percent between 2000 and 2011, to $630,754. The next-wealthiest group's net worth also rose.

But because wealth dropped for the majority of Americans, the median household net worth for the country overall declined about 7 percent to $68,828.

The report was compiled using surveys done by the Census. It includes stocks, money in the bank, home values, retirement accounts and other assets in its measurement of net worth.

AIRLINES-LABOR DAY TRAVEL

Airline group forecasts uptick in Labor Day travel

A trade group for the nation's big airlines predicts that air travel over the Labor Day weekend will rise 2 percent from the same holiday last year.

If correct, the forecast would be more good news for the airlines. Nine big U.S. carriers earned $3.8 billion in the first half of this year, allowing them to pay down debt, reward shareholders and order new planes.

Airlines for America predicted Thursday that 14 million people would fly within the U.S. in the seven days ending Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day.

Separately, the auto club AAA forecasts that 34.7 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home by car or plane over a 5-day period ending on Labor Day. That would be a 1.3 percent increase over 2013.

HOME DEPOT-CEO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Home Depot says Craig Menear, the president of its U.S. retail operations, will become president and CEO of the company Nov. 1.

Frank Blake has been Home Depot's chairman and CEO since 2007, and he will remain chairman of the company.

Menear became president of the company's U.S. retail unit in February. He has worked for Home Depot since 1997.

Home Depot Inc. is based in Atlanta and is the largest U.S. home improvement retailer. On Tuesday, the company reported strong second-quarter results and raised its forecast for the full year. It said purchases of major items like appliances and water heaters improved compared to last year, and its results have been helped by the improving U.S. housing market.

FORD RECALLS

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford is recalling more than 160,000 vehicles in North America for two safety issues.

The largest recall involves 159,395 Focus ST and Escape vehicles from the 2013 and 2014 model years. Ford says their engines could hesitate or stall because of a wiring problem.

Ford also is recalling 616 Focus and C-Max cars made earlier this month because their steering gears don't have the proper number of ball bearings. That can potentially degrade the remaining ball bearings and lead to a loss of steering control.

Ford says there have been no accidents or injuries related to either recall. The 616 cars are still at dealerships and haven't been sold.

Ford Motor Co. will notify customers and repair the vehicles for free.

ARGENTINA-DEFAULT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A U.S. judge says Argentina's announced plans to evade his orders by failing to make required payments to U.S. bondholders is illegal and cannot be carried out.

Judge Thomas Griesa called the republic's actions toward U.S. bondholders "lawless" at a court hearing in New York City on Thursday.

But he stopped short of finding Argentina in contempt.

Argentine officials have called the U.S. hedge funds that refused to swap their bonds for lesser valued ones "vultures."

The funds are owed about $1.5 billion. Argentina says paying it would force it to owe other bondholders over $20 billion.

A lawyer for Argentina urged the judge to reject as premature a request by U.S. bondholders that Argentina be found in contempt.

MEXICO-DIALING DEPORTEES

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) -- Thousands of Mexican citizens deported by U.S. authorities are finding refuge at call centers in Tijuana and other border cities.

In perfect English -- some hardly speak Spanish -- they converse with American consumers who buy gadgets, have questions about warrantees or complain about overdue deliveries.

Many of the workers spent nearly all their lives in the U.S., which is a major selling point for Mexico over English-language industry leaders like India and the Philippines. They can chat comfortably about the U.S. housing market and Super Bowl contenders. They know slang.

One consulting firm estimates that by end of the year, Mexico's outsourced call centers will have more than 85,000 workstations -- which may be staffed two or three shifts a day. It expects Mexico to hit 110,000 in 2020.

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  • WTVC :: News - Business News

    Business News

    News about your money and businesses in the NewsChannel 9 area.
  • WTVC :: News - Missing Persons

    Missing Persons

    These people are missing and are being sought by law enforcement officials within the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
  • WTVC :: News - Town Hall

    Town Hall

    Should VW be unionized? Join the debate by being a part of the our live town hall. Click now for details and to register to be in the audience

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Tonight on WTVC NewsChannel 9

7:00 Wheel of Fortune

7:30 Jeopardy

8:00 Shark Tank

9:00 What Would You Do?

10:00 20/20

11:00 NewsChannel 9

11:35 Jimmy Kimmel Live

Complete Schedule »


Road Trippin
No Text Zone
Pay It Forward
Steve Harvey Show
2014 Southern Brewers Festival