Distribution center a real possibility

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

Local officials have not announced whether Project Tango, a proposed warehouse distribution center project, will be coming to Loudon. The company has sworn them to secrecy, City Manager Lynn Mills said.

But preliminary work on the project is proceeding.

The City of Loudon Regional Planning Commission will review Wednesday a site development plan located at 1600 Centre Park Drive, a 65-acre parcel behind McDonald's on Highway 72. Mills said the company name should be announced at that time.

"I would think their announcement would be sometime by next Wednesday because of the planning commission. They've done a lot of planning and I'd be surprised if they didn't," Mills said.

Project Tango plans detail the size of the building, the way it lays on the property and how roads and improvements will look, Mills said.

Pat Phillips, Loudon County Economic Development Agency director, said the site plan is still "all preliminary."

"We still have not heard anything from the company," Phillips said. "We have talked to them, but there is no decision yet. This (preliminary site plan approval) doesn't mean we are landing the project and it doesn't mean it is going away."

While Phillips said he has no projected time line, he is optimistic that the decision will be forthcoming soon.

"I don't think it is far off - maybe next week," he said.

Local officials had originally expected to know by September whether the incentives they approved were successful.

The unidentified company obtained prior approval for the city and county to sell, for $15,000 per acre, a lot of 100-111 acres at Centre 75 for location of a distribution center.

The company asked and received an annual Payment In Lieu Of Tax project designation for both city and county taxes. A resolution approved by the city of Loudon authorized a 10-year, 50 percent Payment In Lieu Of Taxes program.

Mills said the state pledged $3.5 million for site preparation and the city and county together pledged an additional $1 million. According to officials, the city of Loudon would be responsible for 36 percent of site development and infrastructure cost.

The property at Centre 75 is zoned M-1, for light industrial use, and Mills said the site would have an estimated 400 employees.

"It's a fairly large building with a large parking lot. You've got to have simply a larger parking lot for that with shift changes and all," Mills said.

The applicant listed on Wednesday's agenda is the City of Loudon/Loudon County, the two governmental entities that approved in August the sale of property and industrial incentives for the unidentified company.

Mills said the company requested the name be kept secret until they announce it.

"We try to oblige in that we didn't want other communities to go out (learn of the company) and get them, and they (the undisclosed company) have site consultants telling them the best location," Mills said.