TN official: Megasite needs $80M to be ‘shovel ready’


Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said the Memphis Regional Megasite will need another $80 million to be “shovel ready” or brought up the point where construction could begin.

This estimate comes after Toyota and Mazda picked Alabama over the Tennessee site for a proposed new plant, which would employ around 4,000 people. The company halted negotiations with Tennessee in November since site was ready.

State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, asked Rolfe at the outset of a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting what was needed to move the site forward.

“The reason for asking for this to happen today is to reflect on what’s happened, to look at what the money’s been spent on, but also what lessons have we learned from the failures to get certain businesses in there,” So far, lawmakers have set aside about $144 million for the 4,100-acre site in Haywood County, and the location has had several suitors.

The commissioner, who has been in the position for about 10 months, said the No. 1 problem the site has faced is the lack of a wastewater treatment plant.

Secondly, he said the state still needs cooperation from local authorities on easements for underground pipes for the wastewater.

Rolfe said Toyota and Mazda dropped out because the timeline was uncertain.

“We are told that it could be a six month to nine-month process,” he said.

“Seventy-five percent of (adjacent) land owners have signed easements,” he said. “There are at least a handful of members where they don’t want to sign a grant for easements.”

He said additional improvements needed include $10 million for gas lines, $8 million for railroad work, $13.5 million for electrical, $18.5 million for water and $30 million for wastewater improvements.

“I’m excited about the fact that we have a fresh set of eyes, a new commissioner taking a very hard look at getting this thing truly shovel ready,” Green said. “So that makes me encouraged. However, if you don’t learn from the mistakes of the past you repeat them.”

Late last year, Toyota and Mazda selected Huntsville, Alabama for a new production plant. The plant will produce 300,000 vehicles per year, including the Toyota Corolla and a new small crossover SUV from Mazda. Production is expected to begin by 2021.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jordan Buie; The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit

Published January 25, 2018