EDA Success Story - No Fairy Tale Ending

 

The Story about 1 Yacht builder, 1 Employee & $1Million Road

By: Pat Hunter

January 29, 2009

 

Parcel Increase for Centre 75

 

At Monday’s (Jan. 26th) commission workshop meeting, Loudon County Economic Development Agency (EDA) Director Pat Phillips addressed commissioners about the proposed increase for parcels located at the mostly empty Centre 75 Business Park. The EDA looked at similar nearby properties and market price and adjusted the prices to be competitive. One parcel is proposed to sell for about $325,000 per acre; .6 parcel for $200,000 for a proposed liquor store.

One important issue that Phillips forgot to mention was no electrical infrastructure at Centre 75, which was discussed at the Dec. 4th EDA Board luncheon. It appears that public funds paid for roads, water and sewer infrastructure but no electric service. The subject came up for discussion when Loudon Utilities Board (LUB) manager Lynn Mills presented a $32,377.52 invoice for payment to cover electrical infrastructure to service KFC/Taco Bell property. The EDA discussed defraying electrical infrastructure costs with future parcel sales. Why didn't Phillips bring this issue to commission's attention? Is this the real reason for driving up prices at Centre 75 parcels? Click Party-Time 

Commissioner Shaver shared some concerns about the EDA's recommendation to increase the price of parcels. The poor economy has been cited for the reason of lack of development. If parcels weren’t selling in a good economy under the lower price scheme, will increasing the price of parcels drive or discourage the sale of parcels?  Phillips reply, as of yet, it has not.

What happened to the high tech $20 per hour jobs asked Commissioner Harold Duff? Do you see any movement, anything in the near horizon? The EDA has had activity with commercial properties, not industrial recruitment. Companies are not making decisions and postponing plans. 

Christensen Yachts; Boom or Bust?

Commissioner Duff asked about the status of the boat place referring to Christensen Shipyards,  Christensen Yachts. According to Phillips, he was at Christensen Yachts just last week and he spoke to one employee that was on sight. He appears to be the only one there for a while, added Phillips. They were building the elevator shaft to connect the offices but things are going real slow. He keeps hearing talk about any day now, any day now. Is it on hold, asked Commissioner Duff? It’s on slow down, Phillips commented. Phillips mentioned that he thought that Christenson Yachts was recession proof, which its not. 

 

Commissioner Don Miller mentioned that the boat builder had two orders for $170,000, which he later corrected to $170 million. Public funds paid for a million dollar road and with just one employee on site, how do they plan to build yachts? What happened to the 999 other jobs, which were promised?

Do you recall all the promises that Loudon County officials made about Christensen Shipyards? Officials couldn't trip over their feet fast enough to give away the farm. There was press coverage galore about the $20 million 400,000-square-foot facility plant. The mega yacht builder was expected to bring 500 new jobs when they first opened and up to 1,000 new jobs within a few years. EDA Director Pat Phillips was quoted in the press as saying, “We need to fast track the project." Loudon County Mayor Arp (EDA Chairman) and County Commissioners acquiesced to the EDAs request and became the fiscal agent for a $1million (est.) grant State Industrial Road project in the Tellico Regional Business Park. The County paid for the road expenses upfront, which were supposed to be reimbursed by the state. There were some problems with the road that officials were reluctant to discuss publicly and then nothing more was said.  

It’s easy to understand why state government now faces a projected $1 Billion shortfall while taxpayers pay the price for wasteful spending, bad decisions and pork barrel spending for boondoggle road projects. No fairytale ending here, just taxpayers left holding the bag, broken promises and no high paying jobs!   

 

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02-01-09