Hawkins Industrial growth in 2018 tops $84 million investment, 200 new jobs

Jeff Bobo • Apr 5, 2019 at 1:30 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — One new factory officially opened in 2018 at Phipps Bend, while another new plant is preparing to open, and now grant funding is helping the Hawkins County industrial park prepare for its next major development.

In February, Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced that Hawkins County had been awarded a $100,000 grant to conduct mandatory due diligence studies on a 120 acre parcel at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

Those studies must be completed before a sewer line that divides the property can be relocated and a drainage ditch that dates back to the abandoned nuclear power plant construction there can be removed.

Although the site has already caught the attention of unnamed industrial prospects, those two projects are essential to make the 120 acre site “market ready” for industrial development.

The property is located adjacent to the abandoned Tennessee Valley Authority cooling tower site that was built in the early 1980s before TVA abandoned the project and allowed the property to become an industrial park.

Largest “market-ready” site in East Tennessee

When the study is completed sometime next year, the county’s Industrial Development Board will be eligible to apply for another grant for up to $1 million to relocate a Church Hill sewer line that runs through the middle of the tract and to fill in the drainage ditch which was intended to connect the cooling tower to the Holston River.

The due diligence study will identify potential hindrances to development such as archaeological discoveries, endangered species or environmental issues.

Last year, international industrial site assessor KPMG gave the 120 acre area a positive review.

The KPMG study identified the sewer line and ditch as deficiencies, but stated, “Once developed, the site will offer a unique availability of power and acreage in the Northeast Tennessee market.”

IDB Chairman Larry Elkins said industrial site consultants have already visited the location, but they haven’t divulged the identity of their clients.

“We’re excited about it, and TVA and the state both think that’s going to be the largest site that’s market-ready in East Tennessee," Elkins said. "A lot of the clientele that come through on larger projects are looking for 100 acres, so we think this is going to put that piece of property in high demand.”

The IDB is also seeking grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the TVA to address problems with Phipps Bend’s water system.

Those grants would cover the cost for the Surgoinsville Utility District to make repairs to its water tank at Phipps Bend, as well as to install water line shutoff valves throughout the industrial park.

The valves are needed so that if there’s a leak, it can be isolated and repaired without forcing a water service interruption to every plant in the park, which occurred in 2018.

The overall cost for engineering and site development, the sewer line and ditch removal, and the water tank and valve corrections is projected to be around $2 million.

RMC Advanced Technologies

Canada-based RMC Advanced Technologies is in the process of preparing the former Phipps Bend spec building to manufacture body parts for big rigs, and the plant is expected to open this fall.

Last May, RMC announced its purchase of the 70,000-square-foot building, which was constructed by the IDB in 2009, and is expected to employ 54 people and become the company’s U.S. headquarters.

RMC and its parent company, SIGMA Industries Inc., will utilize robotics to manufacture large body parts for just about every big rig on the interstates today.

When Hawkins County completed the $1.3 million spec building, the massive national economic crisis hit, and industrial growth dwindled to almost nothing.

SIGMA CEO Denis Bertrand said last year the two main reasons he was attracted to Surgoinsville were proximity to his customer base and the fact that the community made him and his Canadian associates feel extremely welcome.

RMC’s main customers in this area are Volvo, Freightliner, Oshkosh, JLG, Peterbilt and Kenworth, which are within 150 miles of the Phipps Bend plant.

Bertrand said there’s tremendous opportunity for doing business with automobile, windmill and airplane manufacturers in the Southeast.

“It’s not just a plant we’re setting up. We’re really setting up the future of the U.S. company. This is why we’re bringing our headquarters to Surgoinsville. It will give us the opportunity also to bring in executives on that side within the next few years,” Bertrand said.

Miyake Forging North America Corp.

The Miyake Forging North America Corp. officially opened its $13.7 million, 45,000-square-foot plant at Phipps Bend last year, after purchasing property in 2017.

The Japanese company was reported to employ 60 people and manufacture automotive bearing parts through hot and cold forging processes in a building that will be constructed on property just south of the Ware Manufacturing facility.

Miyake’s grand opening and ribbon cutting took place in September.

MFNA Chairman Ryoji Miyake said, “At Miyake, we are very happy to expand our business in the United States of America. We are extremely thankful to all of the people who helped make this happen. We hope to grow and contribute our humble efforts to the prosperity of Hawkins County and the United States.”

Other 2018 industrial development highlights

* In January, AGC Flat Glass in Church Hill announced an expansion of $74 million in capital investment and 85 new jobs being created as well as the retention of current jobs.

* In February, the IDB received approval to establish a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department substation in the EMS/fire hall in the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

* In May, Ware Industries at Phipps Bend announced a $1.1 million expansion with 32 new jobs.

* The 2018 Hawkins County industrial summary: 20 new projects were submitted during the calendar year. Three new announcements (AGC Flat Glass, RMC Advanced Technologies and Ware Manufacturing) totaling approximately 200 new jobs and $84 million in capital investments were announced in 2018.