Benton County joins PEP program

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A SURE DRAW FOR BUSINESS – Select Tennessee Certified Sites like the Bridges Site in Benton County are a sure draw for businesses seeking to locate in or expand to rural areas of Tennessee. The County’s inclusion in the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program (PEP) is a very positive step to bring new business to the county.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced last week that Benton County will be one of six new counties selected to participate in the latest round of the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program (PEP). 

Benton County/Camden Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lorie Matlock and Benton County Economic Development Director Jennifer Wheatley have worked closely to make Benton County’s inclusion in the PEP program a reality.

“Benton County is excited to be chosen as one of the six counties to participate in PEP. PEP evaluates potential industrial properties, advising counties on industrial site improvements and where investments may be most beneficial,” said Lorie Matlock, executive director of the Benton County/Camden Chamber of Commerce. “It is essential to have industrial sites ready for Benton County to recruit new industry. Participation in the PEP program brings Benton County one step closer to having the competitive edge we need to attract new business.”

The counties selected along with Benton include Gibson, McNairy, Pickett, Sullivan, and Tipton. Since its inception in 2015, PEP has helped improve the inventory of industrial sites and buildings across the state, with more than 380 sites being reviewed. Program certification of a site tells industry that the site is ready to go for whatever they need to build.

“Having an inventory of ‘shovel-ready’ industrial sites is a crucial part in recruiting and successfully landing economic development projects,” TNECD Commissioner Stuart McWhorter said. “Through the PEP program, communities can gain the competitive edge needed to attract new businesses to the state. We are proud to partner with Benton, Gibson, McNairy, Pickett, Sullivan and Tipton counties as they work to enhance their marketability and increase the likelihood of future economic opportunities.”

PEP originates from TNECD’s Select Tennessee Certified Site Program. With assistance from site selection firm Austin Consulting, PEP provides participating counties with guidance on site planning for future industrial development projects. The program includes an on-site visit, an educational webinar on the site selection process, and a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and needs of each community’s inventory of industrial sites. This assessment also offers recommendations to improve marketability.

“Tennessee has seen a flurry of industry announcements within the last year, many taking place on Select Tennessee Certified Sites,” said Jonathan Gemmen, senior director of Austin Consulting. “It’s encouraging to see such a strong interest in the PEP program, as Tennessee needs more sites that are ready for industrial investment.”

The six counties were selected based on the demonstrated local need for industrial properties and the county’s ability to assemble properties with viable market potential. The application process began with a submission of a letter of intent, followed by application completion, and finally selection. 

TNECD’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the top location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. 

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