By Aarron Fleming
Governor Bill Lee announced plans Tuesday to begin tackling a portion of the infrastructure at the Memphis Regional Megasite, as well as investing $180 million combined that will go toward tech schools and broadband for residents in rural areas.
During a virtual meeting, Lee announced that his administration will present a proposal to the State Building Commission in July to build the wastewater discharge pipeline for the site.
Total investments in the site will include over $52 million to address wastewater and water infrastructure, according to a press release.
“The Memphis Regional Megasite offers tremendous opportunity for West Tennessee, and I am committed to building out infrastructure and supporting area workforce as we find the right company for this space,” Lee said. “I have directed the Department of Economic and Community Development to aggressively market the Megasite and offer enhanced incentives to companies demonstrating a long-term desire to call Haywood County home.”
Lee’s decision to proceed with installing the wastewater discharge pipeline comes after he commissioned Gresham Smith in January to assess the site and determine what needed to be done to get it running.
“The combination of information from that analysis, and frankly, the increased interest that we’ve had from companies across the country, really spurred us to make a decision to move forward,” Lee said during the meeting. “What we knew was true — the fact that the pipe was not laid — could be construed as a vulnerability for the site…We want the megasite to be the very first place companies will look when they start looking around the country.”
Lee also announced during the meeting that he plans to invest $80 million dollars in Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and another $100 million to bring broadband to rural areas.
The TCAT investment will go towards clearing a waiting list of 11,000 students who are waiting to join the work force.
Sitting right between Memphis and Jackson on a sprawling 4,100 acre plot, the megasite is an hour and a half away from 2.1 million people.
It is also surrounded by 25 post-secondary institutions, 20 airports, four interstates including 1-40, the third busiest trucking corridor in the country, and two shipping ports.
The megasite will also feature an on-site railroad that connects to five others in the area.
While not the first set of investments in the site, Lee’s investment is a major move considering that water infrastructure is one of the most lengthy and complex portions of the total infrastructure, according to the press release.
Lee said that he believes investing in the site’s infrastructure will attract another major investor to the site and help his administration to see a return on its investment.
“A major tenant into the megasite would have enormous returns for the West Tennessee economy. The creation of thousands of high-paying jobs in the region, which would actually, in all likelihood, attract additional supplier companies to any major manufacturer that might come here,” he said. “We think it’s wise to invest in economic development. And that’s in fact what economic development is. It is an investment.”