Jefferson County leaders work to certify proposed 'megasite'

Jefferson County leaders work to certify proposed 'megasite'

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"Approximately 60 percent of the citizens of Jefferson County go outside of the county for employment, so with this in the future, Jefferson Countians can stay at home," said Dandridge Mayor George Gantte. "Approximately 60 percent of the citizens of Jefferson County go outside of the county for employment, so with this in the future, Jefferson Countians can stay at home," said Dandridge Mayor George Gantte.
"We just need more people here with money to shop," said Rae Hutchins, owner of Thomas Tavern Gifts and Smoke Shop. "We just need more people here with money to shop," said Rae Hutchins, owner of Thomas Tavern Gifts and Smoke Shop.

By JESSA LEWIS
6 News Reporter

DANDRIDGE (WATE) - Jefferson County could be the home of the state's next megasite, a large tract of land that's certified as ready for industrial development.

County leaders are hoping to attract an automobile company to the area once the site is certified.

Certification could take up to a year, and the space can't be sold to a company until that happens.

The site selected is at the intersection of Interstates 40 and 81, northeast of Dandridge.

To be certified as a megasite, the land has to be at least 1,000 acres, be located near interstates, railways and suppliers, have a plentiful labor supply in the area, completed environmental and geotechnical testing, and an acceptable infrastructure development plan.

People here in Jefferson County hope the megasite will bring hundreds of new jobs in the coming years.

"The goal of the project, of course, is to bring economic development to Jefferson County and the surrounding counties," said Dandridge Mayor George Gantte. "In 2008, we did a building a better future campaign and at that time we found out that approximately 60 percent of the citizens of Jefferson County go outside of the county for employment, so with this in the future, Jefferson Countians can stay at home."

One business owner hopes new jobs will mean more local spending and opportunities for future generations.

"We just need more people here with money to shop and I just think the jobs, any time you create jobs, you've filled your schools with people and churches with people and the community with people who are excited and want to contribute," said Rae Hutchins, owner of Thomas Tavern Gifts and Smoke Shop.

According to Mayor Gantte, the land is currently vacant farmland and residential housing.

"It's nothing that's going to happen tomorrow or overnight. It's a long process. There will have to be a lot of studies done, environmental studies will have to be done and land acquisitions will have to be acquired," explained Gantte.

In order to be certified and open to a company's bidding, the land has to be ready to go.

"Everything will be shovel ready for any kind of a client it can attract into our region. It will have water, sewer, electricity, roads, things of that nature. The process itself to get certified will take between eight and twelve months," explained Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri.

Mayor Palmieri says the cost assessment for the project isn't yet complete, but he expects land acquisition to cost between $3-9 million dollars.

There are five megasites currently in the TVA service area which have created more than 32,000 jobs.

The site in Jefferson County will be called the East Tennessee Regional Megasite and has it's own website.

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