Economic trend moving upward on local, national level

Published 9:03 am Friday, October 14, 2016

As the national economy attempts to take steps forward, the City of Elizabethton and Carter County look to follow suite.

Elizabethton was able to pick up a win in attracting businesses to the area following the Magic Mart building recently being purchased by Bemberg Center Partners, LLC – an affiliate of Anchor Investments, to be utilized as a shopping center for retailers.

“We, as the city, have been working with brokers on the site identifying what type of retail we need to bring in and identifying the market,” City Planning and Economic Development Director Jon Hartman said.

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The size of the area was one of the key factors of getting the purchase secured, Hartman added, adding that the company noticing the area will be a perfect for a market of around 50,000 people that shop and eat local.

“Typically people see our area with 15,000 to 20,000,” Hartman said. “Noticing the amount of people was big for them and even had them looking at the possibility of purchasing future locations to bring in businesses.”

Hartman added the partnership with Anchor Investments has also panned out well.

“It’s been very positive,” he said.

Marketing Elizabethton as a suitable location on par with other cities in the region is one of the key traits in attracting businesses, Hartman added, noting the community is up there with other cities being able to supplement different businesses. The addition of having the building soon housing another business – instead of a vacant lot with a building – is expected to be key for the residents and tourists alike coming through the area to see more of a bustling area through West Elk Avenue.

Partnerships also come into play, the director added, with the community together to help position properties to help market them for potential suitors to continue the uphill trend of development.

“There are definitely a lot of positives moving forward,” Hartman said. “Carter County Tomorrow, in my opinion, has really stepped up to the plate by picking up the option on the Matheson property (off US 19E), handling the Phase I environmental study and budgeting money aside for the Phase II study. They’re really stepping up. The city has been recruiting retail for the past couple of years now and it’s a big boost once we’re able to get a business in. It can take a while, it’s a long process, but we just need to keep moving on and these small wins are great and important for the growth of the community.”

Along with the recent announcement of one building soon to house retail and other properties being in the process of being marketed, Hartman will address the Carter County Commission Monday in regards to the possibility of bringing in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to Elizabethton and Carter County.

City and county leaders both heard a presentation in 2015 on a major redevelopment plan based on establishing a TIF district focusing on a 330-acre section of property stretching from Sycamore Shoals Hospital to Cherokee Industrial Park.

TIF is often utilized by city and county governments as a way to address redevelopment of an area or improvement of existing structures. After a TIF district is established, property tax rates are frozen within the zone, but as development increase, so do property values.

Hartman said the successes of implementing a TIF district can be seen in Northeast Tennessee by what has been accomplished in downtown Johnson City, the Pinnacle in Bristol and in the City of Kingsport.

“Redevelopment can be done without (TIF), but it is extremely difficult,” he said.

Establishing a TIF district can also assist with minor environmental cleanup in industrial lots, water improvements and utility and street improvements. Hartman added that if incentives are available, redevelopment on the road through West Elk can potentially become a reality as well.