A change of plans for West TN Megasite: No wastewater dumping

The state has changed its approach to marketing the sprawling Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County away from a single mammoth manufacturer toward several smaller major industries, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Randy Boyd, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said Thursday’s news that his agency is withdrawing a request for a state permit to discharge treated wastewater into the Hatchie River from industries in the megasite is part a larger realization that it should alter its overall view of developing one of the largest industrial sites in the Southeast.

Since the megasite’s inception nearly a decade ago, state and Haywood County officials have looked on the 4,100-acre site bordering Interstate 40 about 20 miles east of Arlington as a potential location for another giant auto plant like Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Nissan in Smyrna and General Motors in Spring Hill.

But such economic bonanzas for states and communities are few and far between.

“It is good news for those concerned about the Hatchie River that there is not going to be water going into the Hatchie. But from an economic development point of view, I think the equally big news is that we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s rare if not impossible in today’s economic environment to find any company that actually needs 4,100 acres of land,” Boyd told The Commercial Appeal Friday.

He was in Brownsville Friday afternoon delivering a similar message to local leaders.

Note: See also the Jackson Sun, which reports on the Brownsville meeting. Excerpt:

Boyd… couldn’t give specifics, but said all the water handled for businesses would be self-contained in stackable tanks that could be added onto as more companies move into the area.

For months, residents fought against the state to ensure the industry that eventually locates at the Megasite does not dump its wastewater into the state-certified scenic river.

…Boyd said the reversal was partly due to the protests, but was also because the state was planning a 4 million-gallon water treatment plant, which would be far too large, he said.

“So the good news is, we solved two things at once,” Boyd said.

…Michael Philpot, executive director of West Tennessee Industrial Association, attended Friday’s meeting. He said the “do no harm” strategy in dealing with the Hatchie could help the state as they look for a company to locate at the Megasite.

“There’s corporate executives, companies we’ve worked with in the past, that are more environmentally sensitive than others,” Philpot said. “Being green is part of their (business). Some of them wouldn’t take to dumping either or would have a discomfort with it.”