As the year comes to a close, the month of December is a time when the Roane Alliance team pulls together data and information to reflect on the accomplishments and activities for the year. January 2020 started out as one of the busiest on record for the Roane County Industrial Development Board (RCIDB), with three prospects scheduled to look at property. We know for the rest of 2020 travel, visits and even interest pretty much stopped due to uncertainties. So, it is exciting to look back on 2021 and realize what a year the RCIDB had, and the momentum that continues.
Quite a lot of industrial property sold in 2021 – five tracts in fact, bringing in around $21.5 million for the County. Two of those are pending offers received by the RCIDB in the last quarter. The Board voted to accept an offer on October 25 that could net around $1.5 million by selling the Certified 40-acre Jones Road Site in Roane Regional Business & Technology Park (RRBPT). Still under a “pending” contract, the letter of intent from a notable commercial developer out of Atlanta indicates a plan to build a 200,000 s/f speculative building, with an investment of around $12.5 million. Once the 90-day due diligence period has passed we are hopeful for a closing and an announcement can be made officially.
And just a few weeks ago, an existing industry made an offer that was accepted on 0.9 acres in RRBTP to expand their operation. That got us thinking – what has been the total investment in the past five years in Roane County’s industrial parks?
> 105.5 acres of property sold or a current offer pending;
> Over $2M in land sales generated for the County;
> Bringing an estimated $24.5M in investment from new or existing industry.
And, if we include investment outside the park that the RCIDB and the Alliance have been involved in, the investment is well over $44 million in the county.
One of those investments is the Emergency Response Training Facility (ERTF) to be located on a new campus on Hwy 95. On October 28 a groundbreaking was held at the site, along with a reception at New Hope Center where Governor Bill Lee, Senator Ken Yager, County Executive Ron Woody and Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson spoke on behalf of the project, its history and its importance as the only center of its kind in the entire country. The Oak Ridge Enhanced Training & Technology Center (ORETTC) campus will include the $15.1 million state-funded ERTF, along with the federally-funded Simulated Nuclear and Radiological Activities Facility (SNRAF) and a conference center located in Oak Ridge near the American Museum of Science and Energy. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2022.
This also doesn’t account for any investment in the other two industrial parks in the Oak Ridge portion of Roane County. We do not have the details on that investment since the City of Oak Ridge and the Oak Ridge IDB manages those projects, but we know it is very high, given that it includes the UPF project and Kairos Power, reported to bring an estimated investment of $6.5 billion and $100 million respectively by 2025/2026. In fact, the UPF project has already brought in additional investment, through the more-than-expected sales tax the project has been rumoured to generate, and where the Roane Alliance believes the state funding came from to build the ERTF in Roane County.
The majority of the investments have been from existing industry, which is very good for Roane County and its citizens – as the majority of new jobs do come from existing industry. The RCIDB has struggled with the fact that many of the requests for information (RFI) received from prospective new industry are only looking for an existing building. Without having anything to offer, many times the RCIDB can’t submit on those RFI’s because Roane County doesn’t have what they are looking for. The potential number of jobs a new industry proposes to bring has also declined, even if we had a large building for them to purchase.
Roane County has three State Certified Sites, which means those sites are closer to being ready for development and the due diligence of site inspections, reports, etc. have been completed. One of those sites was sold this year to an existing industry, and another one has the pending offer – the Jones Road site. For many years, the RCIDB required a high number of good paying jobs to even consider a prospect, because of the extensive development and work that had already been done on the 40 acres at Jones Road, including a new road and cul-de-sac for the parcel. Grant money and matching funds were used for those improvements, and there were several prospects that came close to calling the site home – but that was before the pandemic. Eventually, it became clear that we might be holding out for something that will not come to fruition – 200 high paying jobs, and even if it did, where would those workers come from? Probably not entirely from Roane County. So the RCIDB discussed what success looks like, in other terms and felt the offer moved Roane County forward at a time when momentum is building and things are looking up.
The offer on the Jones Road site to build a speculative building, does accomplish quite a lot for Roane County – the offer would recoup the investment made that can then be used to develop additional sites in the park; it provides a much-needed building giving Roane County a leg-up to potentially draw a new industry with good jobs and name recognition; and it would generate property tax for the County.
To learn more about the RCIDB activities, marketing initiatives and RFIs visit RoaneECD.com.