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 May 29, 2015 17:19 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy went into reverse in the first three months of this year as a severe winter and a widening trade deficit took a harsher toll than initially estimated.
The Commerce Department says the overall economy as measured by the gross domestic product contracted at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the January-March period.
The revised figure, even weaker than the government's initial estimate of a 0.2 percent growth rate, reflects a bigger trade gap and slower consumer spending.
It marked the first decline since a 2.1 percent contraction in the first three months of 2014, a slump that was also blamed on winter weather.
Economists expect a rebound in the current quarter to growth of around 2 percent and expect the economy to strengthen later this year.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A weak U.S. economy pulled down consumer sentiment in May.
The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment fell to 90.7 from 95.9 in April. The May reading was the lowest since November.
Consumers of all ages and income levels were gloomier this month. And they were less confident both about current economic conditions and the future.
Still, Richard Curtin, chief economist of the surveys, noted that the index has averaged 94.6 the first five months of 2015, highest since 2004.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy fell at a 0.7 percent annual pace the first three months of the year, hurt by severe winter weather and a widening trade deficit.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has taken Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Secretary of State John Kerry has signed an order removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.
Kerry acted 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so. Lawmakers had that much time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.
The step comes as officials from the countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries. Friday's removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.
DRESDEN, Germany (AP) -- Finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies heard a sharp call from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to find agreement on more financial help for Greece.
Lew said that a further delay in Europe's six-month old talks with Greece was "courting an accident" -- such as a Greek default or messy exit from the euro, which could have unpredictable effects on the global and European economies.
Lew said Friday at the end of meetings in Dresden, Germany: "Too much time has been spent unproductively." The ministers at the meeting officially discussed more long-term projects such as making sure multinational companies pay all their taxes, but Greece overshadowed the talks.
Lew said "the challenge is to treat this week as a week in which there has to be progress."
BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sounded a conciliatory note on Britain's efforts to renegotiate its relationship with the European Union, saying "when there is a desire there should be a way."
British Prime Minister David Cameron is making a whirlwind tour around Europe to press his case for concessions on the terms of Britain's membership in the EU. He met with Merkel in Berlin on Friday after a morning meeting with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz.
Merkel said after the talks that it would be in Germany's interest to see some changes and that her country would negotiate in a "supportive and constructive way."
Germany has a "clear cut hope" that Britain will remain a member of the EU, Merkel added.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that drug manufacturer Actavis PLC's attempted switch of patented Alzheimer's medication violates U.S. antitrust law.
The decision released this week explains last week's ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that requires the Dublin-based company to keep distributing Namenda until 30 days after its patent expires on July 11.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (SHNEYE'-dur-muhn) sought that court order. He alleged that antitrust and state law violations by Actavis pushed patients to its new patented drug Namenda XR to avoid losses from cheaper generics.
The court says the "hard switch" by Actavis "crosses the line from persuasion to coercion."
Actavis says its new drug, taken once daily instead of twice, is better and demand is growing. The company declined to comment further about the court's ruling.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The head of a rival group to the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee says his group doesn't share close links to another outfit that worked against a union election at the factory last year.
The American Council of Employees was formed after the UAW narrowly lost that vote. A group called Southern Momentum organized opposition to unionization at the Chattanooga plant.
The newer group, ACE, now has an attorney who served as a leader of Southern Momentum. But ACE's president, Sean Moss, says it's wrong to assume there's wide overlap between ACE and Southern Momentum.
Moss says that many of the workers who supported Southern Momentum opposed any sort of organized labor, while ACE backs Volkswagen's desire to create a German-style works council at the plant.
BREWERY CANS WATER
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- An Anheuser Busch plant in northwest Georgia has started canning water instead of beer to help flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma.
Multiple media outlets report the Cartersville plant halted its beer production to produce 50,000 cans of water to distribute to the flooded areas by this weekend.
Cartersville brewery manager Rob Haas told NBC News the brewery has participated in similar initiatives in the past, including during the Northeast's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
The brewery even has a special white can that it uses for the water.
Side RoadsTake a ride with Brian Smith to explore the unique people and places to be found along the Sideroads of the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
The Good LifeCelebrating the events, adventures and activities that represent "The Good Life" in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area.
Closings and DelaysThese are the latest School and Business Closings reported to NewsChannel 9. If you see errors or need to add a school or business, call 423-757-7320.
Educator of the YearView the 2015 Tennessee Lottery Educator of the Year!
Deaf & Hard of HearingInformation provided to NewsChannel 9 by members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
Sponsored EventsCheck Back Often for NewsChannel9 Sponsored Events!