Retiring director of Loudon EDA played big role in business recruiting
Hugh G. Willett, Special to the News Sentinel
Before Patrick Phillips retires after more than three decades of recruiting industry to Loudon County as executive director of its Economic Development Agency, he will be able to see firsthand the results of one of his most important recent achievements.
One of the biggest job recruiting projects in the county's history is now ramping up at the Matlock Bend Industrial Park.
Morgan Olson LLC began producing delivery vans for United Parcel Service in January and has already hired about 200 workers, according to Steve Hart, human resources director at the Sturgis, Mich.-based company.
"We're still building and completing the lines and expect the plant will be running more efficiently by the end of the second quarter," he said.
By mid-year the plant should be producing 16 to 17 vehicles per day. The company will have hired about 300 new employees by year's end, Hart said.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development last week released information on the $2.5 million in state FastTrack funds provided to bring the company to Loudon County last year.
The incentives include $1 million in FastTrack Job Training Assistance Program funds to be used to train the new workforce needed for the expansion, and $1.5 million in FastTrack Economic Development funds that will be used for retrofitting the existing building.
According to information provided by the state, Morgan Olson has committed to create 500 new jobs and to make a $45 million capital investment within five years. The company will have an average wage rate of $19.21 per hour for the new positions.
In his 36 years of service to the county, Phillips has been a part of an amazing turnaround.
When he started working as a Department of Economic and Community Development consultant for Loudon County and its municipalities in 1980, jobs had been moving out of the county.
In the '80s, the trend began to reverse. The Tellico Village residential development breathed new life into the county, and the A.E. Staley's plant became one of the biggest construction projects in the state. The '90s saw the entry of Honda and Kimberly Clark.
"Loudon had started to become a regional employer," he said.
In 1994, Phillips began serving as full-time director of planning for the county and its cities. He joined the EDA as executive director in 1998. In the last few years, recruiting successes have included the Del Conca tile plant.
Over the years, the EDA has expanded the scope of its mission beyond economic development to include community development such as construction projects, transportation planning and implementation, and downtown revitalization, Phillips said. Projects backed by the EDA have also included greenways and the Senior Center in Loudon.
County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said the county has benefited greatly from Phillips' work and his efforts to expand the scope of the EDA.
"Pat been a great asset to this county," he said.
The county has been accepting applications for a replacement and could start interviews in the next few weeks. A committee that includes Bradshaw, Lenoir City Administrator Jim Wilburn, Loudon City Manager Lynn Mills, Loudon Mayor Jim Greenway and Phillips will be making the selection.
"When you look at the job Pat has done, his experience and all the contacts he has, it won't be easy to replace him," Bradshaw said.
Phillips is expected to step down as executive vice president when the position is filled, possibly as early as April. He will continue with the organization in an advisory capacity for a long as a year. He said he will occupy his retirement time by traveling and doing volunteer work, among other things.