County mayor suggests new industry 'game-changer' for community

Jeremy Nash

Local government and economic leaders are hoping two tax deals could soon bring hundreds of jobs to the community.
Loudon County Economic Development Agency Board of Directors and the Joint Economic and Community Development Board earlier this week unanimously approved two resolutions that would grant payment in lieu of tax agreements to Loudon-based VanHooseCo Precast LLC and a company to be named later.
The agreements must now be approved by Loudon County Commission and Loudon City Council.
EDA Executive Director Pat Phillips said talks with a company, named Project Moon until formalized, have been taking place for two months. The company has expressed interest in the former John Deere and Aztec facility at 9600 Corporate Park Drive, Loudon.
Phillips said the facility is 325,000-340,000 square feet and occupies 108 acres. EDA officials have been marketing the building for about eight months, and Phillips said the chances of attracting the automotive manufacturer into the county are “very good.”
“It’s a good project,” Phillips said. “I think that we can get this won and get it in here. Again, it’s preliminary. We’re trying to move up pace of this a little faster. We’ve done this occasionally and aren’t always successful, but we think that trying to get the project moving along shows our intent. “We are competing with other sites, not only in Tennessee but outside the state, but I think that the Loudon signing proves strong intent,” he said.
Phillips said the company is not a car manufacturer, but more into making “larger pieces of vehicles.” Board members voted in favor of a 50 percent, 10-year PILOT agreement, with employment to at least reach 80 percent of the projected 500 jobs by the time period ends.
The company is expected to invest $45 million, with $35 million in personal property and $10 million in real property. Hourly wages are expected to average $19.73, he said. The annual lease payment for the company would be $122,832 per year, and the agreement would begin Jan. 1, 2016, and run until Dec. 31, 2025.
According to a resolution presented at the meeting, if approved, the project will generate an estimated $18 million in payroll and $6.7 million in retail sales per year at maximum employment.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, who serves as chairman for the board, said landing the company could be a “game-changer” for Loudon County. “I mean we’re talking $41,000 a year. People will move for $41,000 per year,” Bradshaw said. “The county and the city both — I think if we get that much traffic, they’re coming north, they’re coming from the north, they’re going to hit Lenoir City too. … Five hundred jobs would be incredible for Loudon County.”
City of Loudon Manager Lynn Mills said that as part of the deal, the county would receive about 61.5 percent of the funds annually, while the city of Loudon would see the remainder, or about 38.5 percent.
“Three to five hundred jobs is going to translate into quite a few rooftops, which means an additional population for the city of Loudon, additional tax base for the city of Loudon, in addition to the increase in tax base with them,” Mills said. “So it really is a no-brainer in my mind.”
Oct. 21 is the tentative date when EDA officials will know if the company is in favor of locating to Loudon County, Phillips said. If given the go-ahead, Phillips said the company would be the second-largest employer behind Monterrey Mushrooms, and the largest manufacturer in the area.
“I think it’ll help elevate other people,” Phillips said in a follow-up interview. “It’ll help a lot of our existing business that’ll benefit from this. You see from the retail sales in the resolution.”
Board members also voted in favor of a resolution that would grant VanHooseCo a 50 percent, five-year PILOT agreement to begin Jan. 1 if approved. Presently, the company is expanding adjacent to its existing facility at 244 Blair Bend Drive in Loudon.
According to a resolution presented at the meeting, VanHooseCo plans to invest $12 million in real and personal property and hire 65 employees with an hourly wage of $14.75. The project is estimated to generate $2.4 million in payroll and $630,000 in retail sales each year at maximum employment. The annual lease would be $40,083.
“The company has experienced significant growth in sales and employment growing from 15 employees in 2007 to approximately 150 once the new project is complete and in full operation,” Phillips said. The next step will be for Loudon City Council and Loudon County Commission to review and approve the agreements.
“I’ve talked to a few of the commissioners. I think that it’ll be supported,” Bradshaw said in a follow-up interview. “I’m confident it’ll be supported. An opportunity like this is just great for Loudon County as a whole. That whole quarter right there of Highway 72, of course, will be a great beneficiary of it, but I think we’ll see in other parts of the county as well. A good salary along with the amount of jobs that are there, I think it’s just an incredible opportunity for Loudon County to make this come to fruition.