By Heather Mullinix
A Swedish manufacturing company is considering Crossville as the location for its U.S. manufacturing headquarters.
Wednesday, BekZon Ltd. sent a letter of intent to Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III and Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. stating it intended to locate in Cumberland County, brining 120 new jobs to the community within one year.
Alf Mauritzson, president and CTO of BekZon Ltd., wrote, "Our company considers your southern hospitality and your people to be of the nature that we desire for our company."
"They're sold," Graham told the Crossville City Council during its work session Tuesday. "Now, we've got to figure out how to get them here.
Carey told the Chronicle the development of the business' interest had happened suddenly with him receiving a phone call only two weeks ago. From that time, things moved swiftly with the city, county, Crossville-Chamber of Commerce, state, Tennessee Career Center and Tennessee Valley Authority working together to present information on the community, labor force and business climate.
"We're excited and looking forward to another company coming in here and bringing new jobs for the community," Carey said.
The company manufactures technologically advanced, energy efficient and environmentally safe indoor air quality purifiers that are used in some of the world's most challenging environments to remove odors and contaminants from the air.
It proposes to build a 44,500-square-foot facility on a five acre tract at the Interchange Industrial Park with an investment of $2.7 million in real property and $2.49 million in machinery and equipment.
Graham said he'd had city engineer Tim Begley draw a site plan for the facility on the parcel and Graham took and drove Mauritzson over the land.
"He could see his building on that piece of property," Graham said. "In fact, he walked right up to it."
"The main thing that we're interested in is, they're going to start with 82 employees and take it to 120 within a year," Graham said. "With the business that they're doing, they plan on going to 450 employees in a very short period of time."
Graham said jobs at the company would range from hourly manufacturing employees and maintenance to scientists and engineers. He said the company had low energy needs and did not use toxic chemicals in its manufacturing.
In return for locating in Cumberland County, BekZon is asking for the city to grant the five-acre tract and give the company an option on another five acres adjacent to it. If the company does not substantially complete the facility before Jan. 1, 2013 and staff that facility with 120 employees, the land would revert back to the city. It also asks that the county and city approve a Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILOT). Under this program, the company would pay no, or reduced property taxes for a period of time.
The company also asks that the city, county and Chamber seek all grants and incentives that may be available through the state and Tennessee Valley Authority.
As part of its tour of the county, Carey took the company's president to the Cumberland Business Incubator.
"We did a visual tour of Stone Memorial High School, Roane State and the Incubator," Carey said. "They were intrigued with the Incubator and we were able to arrange a tour that weekend."
The space was just what the company was looking for to hit the ground running. As part of the letter of intent, the company is asking for a one-year lease of the Incubator so that it can get production rolling while its facility in the Interchange Park is under construction.
"We thought it was a win-win for four organizations," Carey said. "It's a win for the Incubator because this will be its first major project that would fill the space. It will help bring jobs to the county and Roane State will be a winner along with the county and city."
Roane State has proposed a one-year lease that would split costs between the city, county and the college, with BekZon paying the utility costs. An agreement would have to be approved by the city and county governments.
"They want to hold a job fair within the next two weeks," Graham said. "If they do that, they want their machinery to start being delivered from Sweden and Italy and delivered to the Incubator."
The company has asked that its lease begin Sept. 1 and end Aug. 31, 2012.
During the time BekZon is occupying the Cumberland Business Incubator, the CBI will continue working with small business start-up businesses and entrepreneurs. Robert Safdie, director of the CBI, said the CBI will set up an office base in Crossville.
"To begin, we just need a few office spaces," Safdie told the Chronicle. "This will allow us to provide an affordable office space to start-up companies. We have received a pledge by Mayor Graham and Mayor Carey to assist the CBI in finding locations for the start-up businesses that would qualify for space in the CBI."
"We're just all excited."
Providing office and industrial space is just one of the Incubator's services. The CBI provides financial counseling and resources for start-up businesses and facilitates access to a network of business and corporate executives to act as mentors for the entrepreneurs. It also works to provide classroom training and educational programs for participants and the general business community and prepare students with educational experiences and internships with CBI clients and business partners.