VOL. 111 | NO. 104 | Friday, June 6, 1997
lj 10/5 cates
grows in West Tennessee
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
Brownsville Mayor Webb Banks can remember a 14-year period in the recent past where not a single new manufacturing facility opened its doors in the small West Tennessee town.
Fortunately for Brownsville and a number of similar communities in the 21 counties of West Tennessee, times have changed.
"Things are rolling right along. Weve had more companies coming in here during the last two years than we have in the previous 15 combined," said Banks, who, although in his first term as mayor of the Haywood County seat, is a longtime resident of the area.
To accommodate future industrial growth, Haywood County closed last week on 65 acres of land adjacent to the Brownsville Industrial Park.
City and county leaders shared the $100,000 cost of the former farm land, which was purchased in two parcels.
"We feel this is valuable land for our needs," Banks said. "It squares off our industrial park and gives us more than 100 acres in one block.
"This will certainly help make us more competitive in West Tennessees growing industrial market."
During the past several years, the manufacturing industry has indeed sharpened its focus on the smaller, more rural communities of West Tennessee.
In the first three months of 1997, eight new companies announced plans to open new facilities in the region, according to a report released by the West Tennessee Industrial Association.
These newcomers are contributing $29.6 million in investments and bringing 375 new jobs to the area.
They include Aldelano Packaging Corp. in Bells, West Tennessee Precision Tool in Humboldt, Centerline Valve & Machining in Mckenzie and Arrow Cryogenics, Dynamark Plastics, Poomgsan Metals Corp. and Logic System Consultants in Jackson.
In Brownsville, Willamette Industries held groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday for a $20 million paper products conversion facility. The company purchased 15 acres in the towns industrial park earlier this year for the facility, which will employ 30 people.
Seven existing companies announced expansion projects during the first quarter, representing $86.5 million in investments and the creation of almost 550 new jobs.
They include SIMMCO, valued at $3.5 million, in Brownsville; Caterpillar in Dyersburg; Anderson Hickey in Halls; Dayco Lexington in Lexington; RoyalGuard Vinyl in Newbern; and Proctor & Gamble and Touchstone Inc. in Jackson.
In 1996, 28 companies announced plans for new plants in the area, which created about 1,000 new jobs and represented investments of about $64 million. There were 64 company expansions in 1996, creating more than 3,200 jobs, with an investment of about $435 million.
"Industrial activity has been coming along pretty well in West Tennessee," said WTIA executive director Michael M. Philpot.
Philpot said that although West Tennessees stable work force, less expensive land, lower utility rates and more pastoral surroundings could all be considered contributing factors to the regions attractiveness to industry, the most important factor was its access to major U.S. markets.
"You can reach 76 percent of the major U.S. markets with one-day trucking service from West Tennessee," Philpot said. "When a company realizes that it can be so centrally geographically located to serve their customers in the marketplace, and then considers the quality of life, quality work force and low utility rate factors, these things just all stack up in your favor."
I-40 is the major artery snaking through West Tennessee. The area also is well-accessed by rail. The proposed extension of I-69, or the "NAFTA Highway," that will run from Canada to Mexico, also is expected to be routed through the region.
"Jackson is booming, Memphis is booming, and I think we are getting the overflow," Banks said. Brownsville is located on I-40 midway between Memphis and Jackson. "There are a lot of smaller companies that prefer to locate outside these urban areas."
Development of additional industrial park land and facilities suitable for manufacturing are two major concerns for communities in West Tennessee, Philpot said. Having readily available building space is particularly important.
"This allows them to market their communities to companies that need a building very quickly," he said.
He estimated that of all the requests the WTIA fields from company site search consultants, roughly 98 percent were in the market for an existing building.
"If a community has good industrial buildings to market, the chances of a site visit are significantly increased."
Currently, about 90 buildings suitable for industrial use are available in West Tennessee, and there are more than 2,000 acres of land available for industrial park development.
Industrial park and building development activities in West Tennessee include Bolivers recently announced decision to invest in a 200-acre industrial park.
Brownsvilles recent purchase boosts the areas available industrial park space to 200 acres.
Gibson County has begun a series of strategic planning sessions regarding plans for a speculative building, as well as considering possible sites for a county-wide industrial park.
Humboldt is evaluating the possibility of building a speculative building suitable for industrial use, Dyersburg recently acquired 240 acres slated for industrial development and Paris, in Henry County, is planning to develop an industrial park and building.
In addition, Fayette County recently annexed 1,600 acres, a portion of which will be used for industrial development.