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Industrial Development Board to consider impact of new retail project in Erwin

By Kendal Groner

The Industrial Development Board of Unicoi County issued a notice last week regarding a special meeting and public hearing that will be held on Monday, July 23, at 4 p.m.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss an economic impact plan regarding a proposed commercial development along the intersection of North Industrial Drive and Jonesborough Road.

“We have been working on this deal since March,” said Tyler Engle, executive director for the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County.

The proposed economic impact plan will be submitted to the Unicoi County Commission and to the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. If the plan is approved by both governing bodies, tax incremental revenues would become available to the Industrial Development Board to promote economic development, pay eligible project costs, or pay debt service on bonds or other obligations related to the project.

“The bond board has to consider a $600,000 tax increment finance package and so that will be considered by the Industrial Development Board, and then if that’s approved, that measure will go to both the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County,” Engle said.

Tax incremental financing is utilized as a public financing method in which municipalities will divert tax revenue increases from a specific area towards some sort of public improvement or economic development project.

“The way I describe it, there will be no change in collection to the base tax, the amount being received by county and city right now will not change whatsoever,” Engle said “What will happen, if the package is approved, the amount by which the value of the property is increasing, the difference in the improvement and the base value, that’s the amount that will fund the note.”

In regards to the potential development project on the approximately 6-acre tract of land behind Pal’s restaurant, Engle was unable to reveal the name of the developer. However, when asked about the economic impact of the project, he stated “a pretty substantial amount” is likely to be invested.

“The public dollars that are going to be used for the increment that’s committed to this project isn’t going to go and build someone a store, this is committed to public improvements such as water lines, sewer lines, utility lines, roads and sidewalks,” Engle said. “This is really important public infrastructure that belongs to the public. These are publicly-owned things we are improving.”

In the specific location, Engle said the board has had preliminary dealings with a few interested developers; however, this is the first serious project in recent years.

“We are really intentional and careful when we commit public dollars to anything,” said Engle. “When we are helping the company, we always look at job totals and payroll totals. We anticipate a strong, positive impact both in terms of jobs and in terms of net sales tax.”

The offices of the Industrial Development Board where the July 23 meeting will take place are located at 100 North Main Ave. in Erwin.