BRISTOL, Tenn. — A $500,000 grant from the state of Tennessee will be used to develop a site at the Bristol Business Park that could ultimately accommodate a 420,000-square-foot building.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced Wednesday that 18 communities and local organizations will receive a total of $6.2 million in Site Development Grants.

The Bristol Business Park is located along state Route 394. The grant money is for clearing, demolition and seeding 50 acres to accommodate a 420,000-square-foot building pad, according to Bristol Tennessee Essential Services CEO Mike Browder.

“Having a large pad-ready site is a critical component in attracting new large business to our community,” Browder said.

The business park is currently home to the Bristol Herald Courier’s production facility.

“Providing more opportunities for citizens in rural Tennessee is one of our top priorities and with the assistance of the Site Development Grants, the rural communities receiving these grants will be ready for investment and economic success,” Haslam said in a news release. “We are strengthening our future workforce through programs like Tennessee Promise, and I look forward to seeing these 18 communities succeed and grow for the next generation of Tennesseans.” 

The grants assist communities in finalizing infrastructure and site improvements for Select Tennessee Certified Sites and sites that will go through the site certification process.

Browder said that in the past, the community has not been able to accommodate large facilities.

“We don’t have any sites in the region,” Browder said. “We need this for the community.”

Browder added that having a reliable electric system and a fiber-optic system that offers 10 gigabits per second to the area will also help attract advanced manufacturing, service industries, data centers, fulfillment centers or corporate offices to the site.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities this grant will provide BTES and the community team,” Browder said.

No specific companies have been sought for the site, but Browder said officials are actively searching.

“With a pad, someone could build quickly,” he said. “We’ve been actively recruiting.”

An advisory committee of staff from TNECD, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture selected the 18 sites from a pool of 28 applications.

Browder said BTES previously applied for funds, but was not successful.

The application process was competitive with grants awarded based on benefit to the community, economic impact, leveraged resources and ability to implement a successful project, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“This grant represents an exciting opportunity to partner with TNECD, BTES and Sullivan NETWORKS in a significant economic development project,” said Bristol Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah. “This provides us the ability to recruit larger projects, which will expand the employment opportunities for our region.” 

Through collaboration of several local and state government entities, a complete infrastructure system has already been installed at the business park, including roadway, water, sewer, storm drainage, electrical and fiber optic.

“This site work will enable us to compete on large-scale projects for which we currently cannot submit a property with any reasonable expectation of success in Sullivan County,” said Clay Walker, CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

Walker added that it has been disappointing to not have a large site available in Sullivan County for business prospects.

“This grant will make that disappointment a distant memory,” Walker said.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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