JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — The sprawling Memphis Regional Megasite is still in search of its first tenant after a Chinese tiremaker decided instead to build its first plant in Georgia.
Sentury Tire Americas has announced it will spend $530 million on the plant about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta and create more than 1,000 jobs once it is complete.
The Jackson Sun reports (http://bit.ly/2cjCxEK ) that the Tennessee site was one of two finalists for the plant. The plant would have taken up about 560 acres of the megasite's 4,100 acres.
Haywood County Mayor Franklin Smith expressed disappointment in Sentury's decision to go to La Grange, Georgia.
"They started with 50 sites and got those down to five sites," he said. "When it got down to two, I felt comfortable they would choose Tennessee, but it didn't work out."
"It's not the news we wanted, but it's the news we got," Smith said.
Sentury says it plan to have the plant begin production in 2018.
"We are very happy to select LaGrange to the location of our North American manufacturing," Rami Helminen, the company's executive vice president, said in a statement. "We are confident that Georgia has the infrastructure that can help us build a successful logistical operation."
The auto industry employs about 120,000 people in Tennessee, and tire makers have been investing heavily in recent years. Bridgestone Americas is building a new 30-story headquarters building in Nashville, and Hankook Tire is building an $800 million plant in Clarksville.
Hankook visited both the Memphis megasite and the La Grange before settling on Clarksville for the new plant.
The loss of the Sentury deal is the latest setback for the West Tennessee megasite located about 40 miles east of downtown Memphis. The state in recent years has refocused efforts on trying to land multiple tenants instead of a single huge one.
Economic development officials have noted that the megasite's 4,100 acres would be enough to include the combined footprints of several of the state's largest plants, including the 715-acre Nissan complex in Smyrna, the 352-acre Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and the 469-acre Hankook Tire plant in Clarksville.
"We had a good team working on this, and they did what they could," Smith said. "We need jobs in West Tennessee desperately. The state worked well with the local folks and we gave it all we had, but it just didn't work out."
Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com