Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chamber of Commerce to Commission: Shh!

By: Dan Whisenhunt

Hamilton County commissioners will consider a proposal next week to offer incentives for an unnamed company that may be building a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Chattanooga.

If commissioners know the name or anything else about the company, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce officials want them to keep quiet.

Trevor Hamilton, the chamber's vice president of economic development, told commissioners that the project, slated for a site near the Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South industrial park, is expected to bring in 1,250 full-time jobs with a starting wage of $32,000 a year. The company is expected to make a $101 million investment, he said.

He reminded commissioners that confidentiality agreements are a key to the county's success in luring businesses.

"I would respectfully ask that you delay any questions or comments until we have time to finalize our negotiations and until such time that we can present the formal [payment-in-lieu-of-taxes] resolution," Hamilton said.

County officials have said the company could be Internet-based, and records show it plans a 1 million-square-foot facility.

On Tuesday night, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield told the City Council that it would hear more details about its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement next week. Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey told commissioners Wednesday he would brief them on the details when they became available.

Littlefield and Ramsey did not discuss what the value of those incentives would be.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern said commissioners would be happy to approve incentives for the new business.

"I'm looking forward to having good news," Skillern said. "If you have good news, we will have good news for you."

In other business, commissioners next week will consider an agreement accepting a $1 million transportation enhancement grant for the downtown Riverwalk.

Dan Saieed, director of development for the county, said it's the second grant the county has received for the project this year.

He said the new grant will cover the portion of the Riverwalk from Alstom's West 19th Street plant to Interstate 24.

The initial $1.7 million grant for which the commission approved an agreement in April, was for the trail from Ross's Landing to the Alstom plant.

The county and city match for both grants is $350,000, he said.

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