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Thu, Aug 21, 2014

A Christmas present for Murfreesboro

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A Christmas present for Murfreesboro | Amazon, Murfreesboro, Paul Latture, John Harney, Project Tango, Parks Trust Development, County Commission, Ernest Burgess, Bill Haslam, Economy, Business, Chamber of Commerce

Amazon will build a facility near the intersection of Joe B. Jackson Parkway and Interstate 24. (Photo courtesy of Investment Partners, LLC)

Murfreesboro received a highly anticipated Christmas gift early Thursday morning with the promise of more than 1,300 jobs and a $135 million economic investment.

The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce announced that retail giant Amazon.com has officially chosen Murfreesboro’s Joe B. Jackson Parkway as the site of its 1.2 million square-foot distribution facility.

The move solidifies months-long speculation that Amazon had its sights set on Rutherford County. First dubbed “Project Tango” by Chamber of Commerce staff, the project was confirmed by Gov. Bill Haslam, and then city planners received a site plan that matched the company’s needs.

“Having a household name like Amazon in Rutherford County just adds to our county’s portfolio of top corporate entities in our area,” Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said in a press release. “With the national and global economies struggling to recover, this proves that Rutherford County is a destination for jobs and we wish Amazon great success in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.”

Together with existing facilities, Amazon will now be creating more than 3,300 jobs and more than $270 million in investment in Tennessee.

Local real estate broker, John Harney of The Parks Group and Park Trust Development, finalized details between landowner Corporate Woods GP and Amazon.com for the 87-acre site.

He confirmed in an invterview that the deal closed late Wednesday.

“This was really and truly a community effort,” Harney said. “Holly (Sears) and Paul (Latture) of the Chamber of Commerce, the codes department, the city planners office, the City Council, Industrial Development Board, transportation departments and everybody involved really worked hard on so many issues, so they all deserve the credit.”

Harney noted that “the great incentive package put together by the chamber and IDB” helped seal the deal.

According to an analysis presented to the chamber, Amazon’s facility is projected to create $47.6 million in tax revenue from construction and operation over 20 years.

The Industrial Development Board voted in late-August to give a 20-year tax break totaling $15.8 million to “Project Tango,” which was later identified as Amazon.

“In this economic climate, jobs are precious. Companies know they can deal, so it takes a whole lot of people to come together and work hard to make sure we can negotiate competitively,” Harney said.

Amazon’s new facilities are expected to be completed next fall.

Murfreesboro’s central location and easy access to transportation arteries were both attractive to Amazon.

“But their main concern was a site with interstate access. Joe B. Jackson Parkway provided that access,” said Paul Latture, president of the Chamber of Commerce.

“I think one of the deciding factors was workforce recruitment,” he said. “The Murfreesboro area offers the ability for Amazon to recruit a large workforce that has the required skill set.”

Latture added that “the lion’s share of jobs will no doubt be local hires.”

“Amazon is committed to local economic development and see Rutherford County’s workforce as its first priority when it comes to hiring,” he said. “As a sort facility site, Murfreesboro will see three times the number of jobs, with more high tech automation.”

In addition to stimulating the economy with employment opportunities, Amazon also serves as a catalyst  for other large companies to join the city’s business community.

“Well, with this development, Joe B. Jackson is already saturated with several large facilities such as NHK Seating, Elam Farms, and Transit Interiors, which leaves only about 150 acres left to develop,” Latture said. “This will absolutely help further recruit business on the I-24 corridor.”

After the company built a site in Chattanooga, Amazon expressed a need for two new sites – a larger sorting facility and a smaller non-sort facility.

Site selection consultant, Jones Lang LaSalle, contacted the state’s economic development coordinator and were directed to several sites across the state, including Lebanon where the smaller non-sort facility will be located, according to Latture.

Murfreesboro was on the list of potential locations, and  officials worked agressively to find the appropriate location that met their needs.

Amazon is in the process of building two facility designs across the United States – sort and non-sort facilities. The non-sort facilities like the one that Wilson County will be getting are smaller with less of a workforce, they and are less mechanized.

Community leaders met some challenges during the agreement process, namely the timeframe Amazon required.

“The process for such a grant usually takes at least nine weeks to complete, but we were required to get it done, with all the engineering and site plans, in 50 days,” he explained. “There were alot of thresholds that had to be met and hurdles to be cleared. Most of the site preparation and improvements are funded by a state FastTrack grant.”

By working together cohesively, local officials were able to complete the agreement.

“This was a team effort that required tremendous attention to detail by so many different departments and organizations in a relatively short time frame,” Latture said. “This was an incredibly complex effort with so many moving parts. Our job at the chamber is to recruit, facilitate, and coordinate both on behalf of the client and with the client.”

He added that the experience will serve as a blueprint for future agreements.

“This effort will definitely stand out as a model for economic recruitment," he said, "a model for how to attract new jobs, and new capital development.”

Amazon.com also announced it will donate $20,000 to Rutherford County’s Books From Birth Foundation, for its chapters in Wilson, Rutherford, Bradley and Hamilton counties – the locations of Amazon’s current and future fulfillment centers.

Books from Birth is a nonprofit organization committed to helping preschool children develop their love of learning and reading.

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Amazon, Bill Haslam, Business, Chamber of Commerce, County Commission, Economy, Ernest Burgess, John Harney, Murfreesboro, Parks Trust Development, Paul Latture, Project Tango
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