Jefferson Co. Commission committee approves initial funding for Megasite

Jefferson County leaders announce plans to pursue a megasite. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Jefferson Co. Commission's budget committee signed off on the first round of funding for the recently announced East Tennessee Regional Megasite, the county's Chamber of Commerce announced on Tuesday. The approved budget, which extends through the end of June, will allow the Megasite project to proceed with the first rounds of the certification process.

“This is a huge opportunity that could be an economic game changer for our entire region,” said Marty Mills, Jefferson County Commission Chairman. “We owe it to ourselves and to our children and grandchildren to pursue this avenue for future generations.”

Mark Sweeney, senior principal of the site selection firm McCallum Sweeney, presented the plan to the committee on Monday. He explained the site would be built for and marketed toward major auto manufacturers. He said nine major automakers are considering expanding their North American operations and argued the megasite leave the county well-positioned to attract one of them.

“There is a definite trend toward the South for automotive plants,” Sweeney said. “It’s generally known and expected that these manufacturers will only go to certified sites in the future. That to me spells opportunity.”

Sweeney told committee members his firm selected the location from several northeast Tennessee locations because of its high visibility and accessibility as well as its highly skilled workforce. The 1,800-acre property lies at the intersection of I-40 and I-81.

The budget committee also heard an economic impact study drawn up by Younger Associates. It concluded the megasite has the potential to bring 4,900 jobs and $2.7 billion to the county, if sold to a major manufacturer.

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