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Megasite means 5,000 jobs, $2.7 billion impact

6:58 PM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars are on the line in a proposal to create a megasite in Jefferson County near the I-40 and I-81 intersection.

An economic impact study by Younger Associates claims during construction, the megasite would support over 7,000 jobs and generate over $2.7 billion dollars. After construction, the number of supported jobs decreases to nearly 4,000, but the economic impact increases to nearly $2.8 billion annually.

The study was welcome news to business owners in downtown Dandridge, like Laura Levin with Laura's Flowers and Gifts. She's been busy bundling arrangements for Valentine's Day, but said her shop is not usually blooming.

"In 8 years, I've watched shops come and go ,and I hope everyday I'm not the next one to close up our doors. It's really a sad thing," said Levin.

Garret Wagley, with the Chamber of Commerce, said the impact would significantly affect Dandridge, Jefferson City, and other small towns.

"I think they'll see more traffic into their business, because there will be folks working on the construction sites . I mean you have to eat breakfast, you have to eat lunch somewhere , you have to fill up your tank when you're going to and from work," said Wagley.

Wagley said when it comes to automotive industries, the average employee travels up to sixty miles to work, so the impact would also extend beyond Jefferson County.

Some business owners told 10 News they agreed the impact would be positive on busy owners, but addressed concerns about those who would be adversely affected, like the farmers and residents who would lose their property. Others were worried the rural and historical feel of their towns would be tainted.

Levin agreed, but said it is time for downtown Dandridge to flourish.

"We need a little change, I like the quietness of the town, I don't want it to become a Knoxville but at the same time we've got to have something here," said Levin. "There has to be some middle ground."

The Jefferson County Commission's Budget Committee approved 5-4 a vote to pursue options on buying the 1,800 acres of land.

The commission will hold a special meeting on February 11th to discuss immediate funding for the 2013 fiscal year, which ends January, and to address other issues surrounding the megasite.

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