Grant awarded for Loudon business park

Will go for improvements at Sugar Limb

Hugh G. Willett

LOUDON — A $1.5 million federal grant has been awarded for infrastructure improvements at the Sugar Limb Industrial Park in Loudon County.
The grant, facilitated through the Appalachian Regional Commission, will be used to build a power substation that will support the Ceramica Del Conca tile production facility currently under construction at the industrial park.
The commission is a Washington, D.C.-based state-federal partnership that works to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development. Officials from Loudon County and the city of Loudon joined state and federal officials in announcing the grant last week.
“It’s great to see clean economic growth in the county,” said county Commissioner David Meers.
The city and county provided another $1.6 million toward the total $3 million plus cost of the power station. The state provided funding for a road leading to the site, which should employ about 180 after a second planned expansion, said Pat Phillips president of the Loudon Economic Development Association. Phillips said his office along with city and county officials have been working on the Del Conca deal since 2008  “This is a co-investment strategy,” said Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development for U.S. Economic Development Agency.
Since 2007 the EDA has invested about $44 million in Tennessee, which has resulted in the creation of new job, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, Erskine said. Overseas investment in the U.S. is on the rise, he said.
“Manufacturing is a critical jobs generator for the middle class. New manufacturing jobs pay about 38 percent more than other jobs,” he said.
Loudon was chosen as the site for the new facility based on proximity to the east coast markets, raw materials and a good labor force with a strong work ethic, according to Paolo Mularoni, president of U.S. operations of the Italian company.
“This new power plant will support us with a consistent, reliable source of power,” Mularoni said.
The new facility is expected to be operational by January of 2014.