By Lee Youngblood

Kemper County Messenger

Kemper County officials are adding another “shovel ready” site to support any new economic development prospects that may come calling.

Kemper County Economic Development Authority (KCEDA) Executive Director Craig Hitt said the county and Weyerhaeuser have agreed on a $230,000 purchase price for a 27-acre site that was once home to a Weyerhaeuser wood yard along Highway 45.

“Highway 45 is the east line and the railroad track is the west line with an EMEPA substation on the north end, so it’s a great piece of property for development,” Hitt said. “It’s got everything we need with the exception of natural gas.”

Hitt said he was meeting Monday with engineers planning how to extend natural gas lines from DeKalb to the site, about 12 miles away.

While there is no identified prospect currently considering the site, county officials say the acquisition will ensure the county is ready when the next prospect comes calling.

Just a few years ago, Kemper County had virtually no project ready economic development sites.  However, in the past year county leaders have made acquiring and preparing such sites a priority.

“We’ve come a long way,” Kemper County Board of Supervisors President Johnny Whitsett said indicating he believed the county’s leadership will continue to support efforts to secure new sites.

Work is now underway preparing a 215-acre project ready site at the intersection of Highways 16 and 397 just west of DeKalb.

“And I would like to have more acreage along Highway 45 ultimately, but I think these are great steps,” Hitt said.  “At least we’ve got something to show somebody, something to get them here.”

KCEDA just recently filled a seperate site along Highway 45 about a mile from site the county is purchasing.  Landscapers Pride, a landscape mulch manufacturing facility, recently located there in the fall. However, it took Hitt and all parties time to secure the property and close the deal.

“We didn’t have control of that site,” Hitt said. “Even though they (a private landowner) was willing to work with the county, in this latest case we have more control and can deal with it in an easier fashion.”

Hitt says the county ultimately needs about 100 to 150 additional acres along Highway 45, or at least the capacity to option more property and expedite any pertinent environmental studies.

“We can be in the mix that way,” Hitt concluded.  “But if we have to tell someone we’ve got to ‘start’ the process of doing our due diligence on a site, then they’ll move on to something that’s already available.”