By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
BAXTER – On Monday, state, local and federal officials gathered at the Baxter Welcome Center/Depot Museum to celebrate the awarding of a $1 million grant to make infrastructure improvements necessary for the Portobello America project, located in one of the nation’s 8,700 Opportunity Zones.
The city of Baxter will receive $1.1 million to make improvements to the water and wastewater infrastructure required for the construction of a $150 million factory and corporate headquarters by Portobello America. The improvements include the replacement of an 8-inch water line with a 12-inch water line, extension of sewer to the future Portobello America site and system improvements to the sewer system. Portobello will employ more than 200 workers.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we’d get a $150 million plant in Baxter, Tenn.,” said Baxter Mayor John Martin. “This is from EDA, ARC and ECD, the monies that they have given to our city are unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable for a city. We’re going to do the water and sewer to Portobello. It’s just exciting times.”
“For the Upper Cumberland region, for the city of Baxter, this project is so vital,” said UCDD Executive Director Mark Farley. “It lays the groundwork to put the infrastructure in place not only for industrial growth, but for the growth of the whole community. I think in time we’ll see great dividends paid, not only because of the jobs that’s brought by Portobello, but because the infrastructure has been put in place for the entire community to grow as a whole. We’re very excited for the future ahead for the city of Baxter.”
Construction of the Portobello America headquarters is projected to begin this fall and be complete by the end of 2021.
The Baxter grant was one of three Opportunity Zone awards totaling $4.4 million awarded to projects in Tennessee. Dana Gartzke, performing the Delegated Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Scott Turner, executive director, White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, were on hand to make the awards.
The other Tennessee grants were $1.9 million awarded to the city of South Pittsburg and $1.5 million awarded to the town of Mountain City.
South Pittsburg will use its $1.9 million grant to build a liquid natural gas storage and re-gasification system to provide uninterrupted energy during peak periods of demand to two major companies. The grants will leverage $31 million being invested by Valmont Industries, and $41 million by Mueller Co. The two companies will create a combined 450 new jobs and retain more than 200 others.
The $1.5 million grant Mountain City will receive will upgrade the wastewater facilities in its Opportunity Zone. The improved infrastructure will enable a flooring manufacturing firm to expand its production. It will also attract additional investment from other companies that have expressed interest in moving production to the region.