The Unicoi County Industrial Development Board discusses potential development opportunities within the county. The board is currently working to build an incentive package for an interested developer. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

During the Wednesday, April 18, meeting of the Unicoi County Industrial Development Board, the board unanimously approved an agreement with special counsel to represent them in connection with a proposed tax increment incentive that will assist with the development of a shopping center in Unicoi County.

The Knoxville based law firm, Bass Berry & Sims will represent the board as their client and the developer, a large regional retailer, will be responsible for paying the legal fees.

“We’re not spending any money and we’re not giving anything away … this is just to develop the incentive package,” said Tyler Engle, executive director of the Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board and Industrial Development Board member. “It’s very important for everyone to understand that there is no agreement or contract, we have just agreed for Bass Berry & Simms to develop the initial offering.”

The proposed development would occur on Second Street in Erwin; however, Engle asked that the name of the developer be kept confidential until they are further along in the development process in order to prevent the prospective deal from being hindered in any way.

“It has very strong potential and the clients are excited,” said Engle. “We are very pleased and that’s one reason we are really asking for everyone to be patient. We think it will be a really great development that everyone will be pleased with.” 

According to the agreement, Bass Berry & Simms will perform the following duties: assist the board in preparing an economic impact plan that would authorize the proposed incentive; draft the basic agreement governing the incentive; prepare and review necessary documents; assist the board in seeking approvals from other governmental authorities; review legal issues related to the structure of the incentive; and, subject to the completion of proceedings, render their legal opinion of the tax increment note.

Industrial Development Board Vice President Garland “Bubba” Evely asked whether or not the board would be the ones determining what the incentive package will be.

“Yes, and we hope to have that done rather quickly,” said Engle. “The developer is on an aggressive timeline.”

Board member Ted Hopson made a motion to approve the proposal as written and it was seconded by board member James Mumpower before it unanimously passed.

“I think this could be a great deal, provided they go through with it,” said Evely.

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In other business, Engle said the Joint Economic Development Board is working with counterparts from Washington County and Carter County to identify new industrial sites.

“We have all worked together to identify large-scale tracts that would be appropriate for industrial development and we are working on that list,” he said.

He also said they have already enlisted the help of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and will also be working with the State Department of Economic and Community Development.

“That’s a regional project and we are very pleased with how that long-range planning venture is coming along,” said Engle. “We’re not focusing just on Unicoi County or Johnson City, but we are building a regional economy so we can all be strong together.”

To date, a total of $1 million has been spent on the former Morgan Insulation Property Second Street, a potential large industrial site, in preparation of future developers.

“We actually have an agent in Germany right now representing the property and we have this property in front of interested parties all the time,” Engle said. “We’re sharing these characteristics of the property and the information as it’s appropriate to interested users.”

Just last week, Engle said the Joint Economic Development Board met with individuals to craft the best marketing strategies for the site. 

“Because we’ve taken steps to invest in our property resources, I think that pushes us on down the road,” said Engle.