With one parcel in Loudon’s Centre 75 Business Park sold, a ground-breaking ceremony for a new manufacturing company will take place in the spring.
The 23 acres sold for $580,000 earlier in the fall.
Jack Qualls, Loudon County Economic Development Agency executive director, has noticed outside interest in the park.
“I’ve only been marketing it for about three years,” he said. “We really look for a good fit for the community as well as adding a corporate partner. We’ve been advertising it more as a clean, industrial-type location. There have been several people look at it over the past three years, and we finally have a great partner to construct a manufacturing facility.”
Centre 75 faced promising business negotiations in 2018 with an Asian manufacturing company, but plans fell through later that year.
Qualls believes the new manufacturing business, which is undisclosed for now, could be the beginning steps to expand Loudon’s industrial base alongside Sugarlimb and Blair Bend industrial parks.
“This is really the next industrial park for our community,” he said. “Hopefully this one manufacturer being located here will spur activity and new interest to the area. Hopefully others will soon follow.”
Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris feels confident.
“I just know that it’s been a long time coming, trying to get someone recruited out there,” Harris said. “(Qualls) did a really good job of getting someone to purchase the property and get the process started when 20 years before, nothing ever got sold out there. He and his department did a really good job of recruiting and closing the deal.”
Centre 75 has had difficulty landing projects, and Harris believes bids had a hand in the business park’s stagnation for two decades.
“We’ve been in the bidding on certain projects, but for one reason or another, we tend to lose out,” he said. “... It could be that another county, another state or something offers them more incentive than we do, and they kind of use each site to bid against each other sometimes to get a better deal. We’ve been in the running several times, and this is one that finally fell our way. We’re very fortunate.”
Harris believes the sale will benefit surrounding businesses.
“Naturally, it gets it on the tax rolls, which is a very important thing, to get this property on the tax rolls,” he said. “That will add additional jobs, which will also increase taxes out of that area. Those employees will be looking for places to eat, places to live and those kinds of things, so all of that is positive for us. I think it just finally gives a start for the industrial park out there that we’ve been hoping would take development over the last 20 years. You’ve got to start with something, so I think for Loudon this is just a start. We’ve got a new restaurant coming out there, we’ve got a new housing project being developed out there as well and now a new business coming, a new factory coming in. All of that I think is just very positive for Loudon and for that end of the county.”
Qualls echoed Harris’ hope the lot’s sale foreshadows business to come in Centre 75 and in the Loudon community.
“I think the big thing is this is a direct coordinate to our area, and certainly anytime you have a new foreign direct investment to your area, it’s a good opportunity for a community,” Qualls said. “Usually it’s a sign of things to come. Projects that sometimes start small end up big over time, and I think that’s what you’re going to see with this project.”