Crete trucking facility to create 388 jobs at speedway site

By Bob Fowler

A former speedway is on track to become the site of a maintenance center for a trucking firm that has agreed to hire 388 Tennesseans within three years after the facility is built.

Details of Crete Carrier Corp.'s plan to build off Interstate 40 on the former Atomic Speedway site were hammered out Tuesday in a meeting with Roane County and state officials.

"We are looking at, if things go well, a project that could be done as early as next summer," said Leslie Henderson, president and CEO of the Roane Alliance, which leads the county's economic development efforts.

Roane County officials were first told that Crete only planned to add 40 to 60 employees when it consolidated operations now in Knoxville and previously in Greeneville, Tenn.

"It's a much, much larger employment commitment than we had thought at first," Henderson said of the revised plans.

The average wage for workers reporting to the new facility will be $16.67 an hour, according to a letter that Crete Executive Vice President Karel Znamenacek Jr. sent to Roane County Executive Mike Farmer.

Crete, a privately owned company with headquarters in Lincoln, Neb., had to clear several hurdles to get to Tuesday's meeting giving the go-ahead for the $8.4 million project.

The decision last year by the Atomic Speedway owner to sell the one-third-mile dirt track upset racing fans. Declining attendance was cited for the sale.

"We didn't want Crete's attempt to open a business to get caught in that dispute," Henderson said.

Once Roane County commissioners approved rezoning of the speedway, part of 25 acres bought by Crete, sewer treatment woes bogged the project down.

Plans to hook onto the Lenoir City Utility Board sewer system were thwarted by a reported lack of capacity, Henderson said.

So Roane County officials took a new tack, seeking funding for a sand-filtered wastewater treatment system.

Henderson said Roane County has agreed to give three acres in the nearby Roane Regional Business and Technology Park for use as a sewer treatment site if needed.

The company is also considering the purchase of private property nearer its land for the treatment system, Henderson said. The Watts Bar Utility District will operate it, she said.

The county sought and quickly won a state grant of $514,514 for the sewer plant, and Crete agreed to ante up the local share of $152,536, she said.

Henderson said Crete trucks would use the new I-40 interchange that serves the industrial park.

Larry Petr, accounting manager with Crete's Knoxville office, said long-range plans call for 40 to 50 trucks a day to leave the facility.

The center will consist of an 8,000-square-foot office and a 10-bay maintenance area, he said.

Crete drivers are on the road for two weeks to a month, Petr said. He said the company, started in 1966, has 5,700 trucks, 12,000 trailers and more than 6,000 employees.