Even though some Crossville City Council members expressed concern about the effect on the city's budget, four councilmen approved the purchase of over 80 acres left in the Interchange Business Park as a way to try and encourage local economic development.
City Manager Curtis Adams told the council that competition in economic development is “pretty keen” and he invited a respected site selection team that was visiting Crossville during the week of the council meeting to learn all they could about the area.
Adams added, “We've got to have property to show a prospect and this property is 89 acres that could house three or four industrial buildings of 100,000 square feet or even more smaller buildings if necessary.
“The financing is a good deal,” Adams told the council, “and we've been working hard on economic development and need something to show.”
According to Adams, in the current climate, “There is no such thing as charging for property. You have to give (an industry) the land and tax breaks for 200 to 300 jobs. I endorse this purchase.”
Adams also shared that his economic development committee had been meeting and a map of some 1800 acres of available potential industrial development property in the area of Crossville had been identified for possible needs.
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III said, “It is important to understand the number one job is employment.” According to Graham total employment numbers have averaged the addition of only 100 jobs a year over the last 10 years but he pointed out some 300 students a year graduate from the local high schools.
“That means we are not giving the kids we raise a chance to work where they were raised,” concluded Graham.
Graham explained that the industrial park's owner, Millard Oakley, came to the city offering the property for $1.8 million and that he would give as a “grant” the other $2 million value of the property. Graham said the property already has roads, water and sewer as well as streetlights.
City attorney Ken Chadwell got up to explain what is essentially “owner financing” of the deal and the legal requirements of the capital outlay notes used. The financing is at 3.45 percent over nine years. Chadwell added that there is no mortgage lien against the land so parts of the property could be transferred to an industry even before the loan is paid off.
Comments from other council members included Danny Wyatt who said, “It is a great thing but it is hard to vote on as I would like to have a balanced budget for the city.”
Councilman Earl Dean explained, “I was initially opposed to this but after I've looked at it, I think it is a good thing to do.”
Councilman George Marlow talked about his feelings on the deal saying, “I am concerned about spending this money but I know that industry and job losses affect the economy. I am for additional jobs but I certainly do not want to raise taxes to cover what we've spent.”
“This is a deal we can't pass up,” said councilman Boyd Wyatt. He reminded the council what he'd said back when Adams was originally hired that he felt “Adams could bring jobs to us.”
“This supports Adam's plan,” concluded Boyd Wyatt.
Mayor Graham told the council that he wants to ask the Cumberland County Commission to help out financially at the time any new industry comes in. “(Economic development) is their responsibility too,” added Graham.
The vote for the purchase and financing was four votes in favor with Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Wyatt voting “no” saying he'd rather wait until the budget for the next year is further along to know how the annual payments on the notes would affect the budget.
Following the vote councilman Boyd Wyatt emphasized, “We must find some jobs! I want to put some requirements on getting this land.”
In previous years the council had opted not to go into the industrial park business saying that the private development would cover any needs of incoming industry. With little new industry under the current economic conditions, that opinion has changed.
As part of the council's consent agenda the payment of $5000 was approved to Strategic Development Group, Inc. They are the business site selection firm City Manager Curtis Adams mentioned. Adams told the council by bringing them in at the city's expense they would have all the information about the city they could share with their clients seeking a place to locate.