Biz new construction in Town $5 mil in ’16

Listening to R. Knick Myers recall his first not-so-pleasant business experience with town of Farragut more than 22 years earlier, looking to start a Farragut Ace Hardware store in 1994, Town Administrator David Smoak announced commercial construction growth for 2016.

While the Town won’t feel the Sales Tax impact from these new businesses compared to Costco or Publix — Fifth District Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker saying last November Costco generates roughly $1 million in annual tax revenue for Farragut — “We had roughly $5 million in new commercial construction, from the ground up, last year,” Smoak said.

Smoak’s 2016 update was announced during Town’s Economic Development Committee monthly meeting Wednesday morning, Jan. 4, in Town Hall boardroom.

“In general we had a lot of tenant finishes, and lot of build outs and things like that,” Smoak added.

Answering a question from Tim Williams, committee member, concerning the up-and-down nature of new ground-up commercial construction dollars annually spent in Town, Smoak said, “In one year we had Costco and Publix come in and you’ve got $26 million to $30 million in new [commercial] construction coming through.”

In 2015, however, “We had nothing in new ground-up construction,” Smoak added.

As for Town retail success, specifically wine and liquor stores, “I think all of them have been taking a pretty good hit for the first six months of the year,” Smoak said about the impact of a new state law that allowed, as of July 1, 2016, grocery stores to sell wine.

“If you look at overall liquor tax revenues that we get, they’re up because all the stores had to buy all their product to get ready for the July 1 year. … So you’ve got Costco, Publix, Kroger all buying a lot of product to get on the shelves,” Smoak added. “So we’re going to see a pretty good bump this year by the end of the year.”

On a related note, Town Alderman Louise Povlin said, “Basically, 70 percent of the revenue that the town of

Farragut relies upon is business-generated.”

While EDC discussed the Town’s evolution in becoming more business-friendly in recent years, and the committee’s role in that process, EDC-member Myers recalled his difficulties in 1994.

Approaching Town officials about building his Ace Hardware store at a site he had chosen in Farragut, “I was told, ‘We don’t need an Ace Hardware store,’” said Myers, a prominent Town businessman who ended up building his hardware store just outside of Town limits in Dixie Lee Junction.

He recalled replying, “’We actually do. It’s a great place. We looked all over the United States and this is, like, the best spot.’ And I was just told, ‘no … you can’t do this, can’t do that.’

“There was no avenue, no path to follow to say, “’I actually think it’s a good idea.’”

Some time after he opened his Dixie Lee Junction store, Myers said a Town alderman “sought me out some place and said, ‘I really resent that you did not come to the town of Farragut.’ … I was flabbergasted.”

On the residential front, specifically new single-family housing, “We had over 150 houses that were built last year in Farragut, which for us was probably a six- or seven-year record,” Smoak announced to EDC. “We’ve been having around a 100 houses a year built.”