Many happy returns

Economic Development Board impact study says board’s work is financial boon

By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

A study released in late December showed that the vision of county and city leaders to pool their money to encourage commercial and industrial development was a wise investment.

The Economic Development Board, a body made up of representatives from Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa, was created in 1969 to foster commercial and industrial growth.

"We wanted to quantify exactly what the economic impact the board has had, and we have never been able to quantify exactly what the figures were," Bryan Daniels, executive vice president of the Blount County Economic Development Board, said. "We worked with University of Tennessee and the Blount County Trustee’s Office and the two cities to come up with these figures."

The study said showed that companies brought in by the board normally paid higher than average wages for their employees. "We are trying to recruit jobs that apply to the wide demographics we have here," he said. "Our average is
$52,551, which is really good."

The study showed that the total economic impact for Blount County because of companies assisted in some way by the board. According to the report, 12,511 jobs were created by companies who were directly assisted by the board, either because the board recruited them or helped them in some other way. When combined with the "ripple" effect of jobs created to service those positions, the figure is pushed to 20,917.

Those service jobs could be anything from restaurant workers to lawyers to any position created to serve those individuals in the jobs created by companies the board assisted.

The study showed there was more than $636 million of income created through companies assisted by the board.

The "ripple" effect jumps to more than $955 million when the amount of income created by business to service those companies and individuals in those companies is factored.

Daniels said the only companies surveyed were those on file with the board, companies they had assisted in some way, recruited, provided incentives for or placed in an industrial park.

"It does not include any companies that came here under their own initiative without our help," Daniels said, "just companies touched by us, the Economic Development Board. Look at the types of jobs being brought in. These are not low-pay
wages. The average wage is $52,551. It also shows that how much income is being brought into the community through
these efforts."

Daniels also pointed out data from the 2006 county tax roll from the Blount County Trustee’s Office to back the benefit of the economic development board’s work. The data shows that, on average, commercial property owners pay more than $4,339 in property tax, and there are 7,846 parcels. On average, industrial property owners pay more than $38,513.92.

Daniels said the trustee’s office data showed the average residential property tax bill is $651.36. "When you take into consideration what it costs to educate a student, which is approximately $8,000 a year to educate one student, the commercial and industrial (tax payers) are making up the difference for the residential tax payers," he said. "We are keeping their taxes low by having these companies pick up the majority of the tax bill."

Daniels said the economic development board constantly tries to foster a good balance between the residential, commercial and industrial tax bases. As the county has become stronger because of more commercial and industrial jobs, it has drawn many who work here but live elsewhere. "We are a regional economy. We’ve got people from Knoxville coming to work here, but we’ve got people going to Knoxville to work."

Daniels said the economic development board is made up 11 members, seven voting and four ex-officio members. The seven members are business leaders in the community who have had an active, non-biased participant in the community.

The other four are managers of governments. One is the Maryville city manager, the other is the Alcoa city manager, the third is the Blount County mayor and the fourth is the president of the Blount Partnership.

Daniels said the way the board was created in 1969, the county and the two cities each had industrial development boards. "Each one was competing with each other to get jobs," he said. Cooperation won out. Today, the Economic Development Board is part of the Blount County Chamber Partnership which also includes the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber Foundation and the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It’s an asset," Daniels said, "and there is savings because we merged industrial boards and have a combined approach."

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