Officials working to secure funding for Cates Landing

Officials working to secure funding for Cates Landing

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 12:28 am

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Lake County’s Cates Landing project is generating a significant amount of attention this week — on the local, state and national levels.
The Messenger has learned that Gov. Bill Haslam will be in Union City at the Obion County Public Library on Thursday, according to state Rep. Bill Sanderson.
He met earlier this week with the governor to discuss the Cates Landing project as well as the Goodyear plant closure.
Economic development officials from across the region have been focused on getting a $7 million commitment from the state for the Cates Landing project.
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met Wednesday morning in Dyersburg to review recent developments with the project. Jimmy Williamson of Dyersburg is the chairman of the port authority.
Representing Obion County on the eight-member port authority board are Richard Arnold and Dave Frankum.
Williamson said he was in Washington, D.C., last week and met with Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, with Rep. Stephen Fincher and with officials in the U.S. Department of Transportation concerning the Cates Landing project.
“It went well,” William-son said about his trip.
“We’re optimistic about it,” he added about the Lake County project and the work going on to get the project funded.
It will take $20 million to complete the port. Local officials are fighting for $13 million in federal funds and an additional $7 million in state funding for that purpose.
The rise and fall of a House bill — House Resolution 1 — has many economic development officials in the region concerned. HR1 would have cut more than $60 billion in federal spending for the rest of this fiscal year, but it is now dead. The bill included the $13 million in funding for the Cates Landing project.
It was in mid-February that the U.S. House of Representatives approved HR1 by a vote of 235-189. Fincher and the six other Republican House members from Tennessee voted for HR1, while the state’s two Democratic House members voted against HR1. The bill was actually defeated in the U.S. Senate earlier this week by a vote of 44-56.
“This version of the bill is dead,” Fincher told The Messenger. “In fact, there is no law or regulation that is preventing Secretary (Ray) LaHood from signing the contract with the port immediately. The federal government has a process to go through. In the House of Representatives, there were two Continuing Resolutions (CRs). House Resolution 1 was a starting point for negotiations. HR 1 failed to overcome the necessary hurdles to become law. The CR that was actually signed into law keeps the government open for two weeks and has absolutely no impact on the TIGER II grant.”
“The Lake County Port project is integral to job creation in northwest Tennessee, and I am doing everything I can to see that the TIGER II grant is funded without further delay. The contract for the TIGER II grant is currently before the Transportation Department and awaiting signature. Earlier this week I spoke with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and asked him to help push it over the final hurdle,” Fincher said.
Local economic development officials are now focused on getting the $13 million federal funding and the $7 million in state funding.
“We’re tremendously excited about the news from Congressman Fincher about his efforts to get the $13 million in federal funds for the Cates Landing project,” Arnold told The Messenger Thursday. He has been serving on the port authority board and directly involved with the project since late 2008.
Earlier this week, Haslam met with Sanderson to discuss the Cates Landing Port and the Goodyear situation in Obion County.
“The governor is a very busy man but I knew I needed to meet with him before he presents his final budget next week,” Sanderson told The Messenger today. “There were two pressing issues I felt must be discussed and only the governor had the answers”.
Sanderson said the governor was given a fact sheet prepared by the Cates Landing Port Authority during their meeting Tuesday.
“We briefly discussed what I felt could be the consequences on not getting the state and federal funding,” Sanderson told The Messenger. “I wanted him to know that many people, cities and counties were vested in this project and many hours of work and financial obligations should be considered. I have three counties that have done their part, now it is time for the state to do its part.”
During their meeting, Sanderson also discussed the impact of losing the Goodyear plant in Union City. Haslam discussed what the state has already done for the area and said he was coming to Union City in the next two weeks to talk to local leaders about the state’s role in the recovery, according to Sanderson.
He told Haslam that he has received several calls from Goodyear associates who are still holding on to the possibility that Goodyear still might not close the Union City plant.
Sanderson urged the governor to contact upper level Goodyear management in Akron, Ohio, and urge them to come to Union City and end the rumors.
Sanderson told Haslam the Goodyear employees need definitive dates. They need closure. Major life decisions are going to be made and many associates feel they are in “limbo,” he told the governor.
If there is a possibility that Goodyear will not leave, that needs to be announced. But if that is not a possibility, then the rumors need to end, Sanderson advised the governor during their meeting.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 3.11.11

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