The Yuletide greeting came a short time after a major announcement Monday morning that was heard throughout Southeast Tennessee and the rest of the state.
Although considered by most insiders a formality, the long-awaited confirmation by Amazon.com that the giant Internet retailer will build huge fulfillment centers in a pair of Southeast Tennessee neighboring jurisdictions did serve several purposes.
One, it brought to a climax one of the area’s hottest economic development talking points of the past few months.
Two, it now allows Cleveland, Bradley County, Chattanooga and Hamilton County government leaders to say publicly “when” Amazon comes instead of “if.”
Three, it allows local leaders to post another merit badge of honor onto the growing sash of economic development success stories for 2010.
And four, it points to a significant recruitment tool for the future that several government, Chamber of Commerce and industrial development leaders have espoused for years — that economic development can be achieved just as effectively when neighboring governments make a concerted effort to work together for the good of the region.
Ironically, it was a subject touched on by Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis in his “Our County” column published in the Dec. 14 edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Earlier this year, Davis was elected by his regional counterparts to serve as chairman of the Southeast Tennessee Economic Development District in 2011, so he is already keeping a keen watch for common-cause opportunities within the multicounty area.
Although at the time Amazon.com had not made official its intent to build 1 million square-foot fulfillment centers in Bradley and Hamilton counties, Davis’ column nonetheless praised the work of those whose mutual efforts, common goals and cooperative spirits lured Amazon into considering Southeast Tennessee, and then choosing it.
“ ... I want to express my appreciation to the local, regional and state leaders who worked tirelessly to bring Amazon.com to Bradley and Hamilton counties,” the weekly Davis column read. Most importantly, it added, “This complex project is a good example of what can be accomplished through regional cooperation.”
Davis pointed to the same sentiment voiced earlier by Ross Tarver, chairman of the Cleveland /Bradley Industrial Development Board.
Davis quoted Tarver as saying, “ ... a project this far-reaching has many components and takes time to finalize. We could not have gotten to this point without a dedicated and focused regional team working together.”
Both agreed that attracting Amazon required a team effort from jurisdictions representing Cleveland, Chattanooga, Bradley County, Hamilton County, the chambers of commerce in both Cleveland and Chattanooga, and the state of Tennessee, including the Office of Economic and Community Development and Gov. Phil Bredesen.
“Because of these successes it appears that even in the midst of the recession, Bradley County is poised for significant job growth,” the Davis column read.
The county mayor repeated his beliefs Monday in responding to the Amazon.com confirmation.
“ ... This announcement is a good example of how counties and chambers of commerce can work together in a regional partnership,” Davis said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland pointed out that although the Amazon.com fulfillment center in Bradley County will be located outside the Cleveland city limits, the residents of Cleveland will still benefit as will all residents of the county.
“Cleveland is a very proud part of Bradley County so what’s good for our county residents and our region is equally as good for our city residents,” Rowland said. Like Davis and Tarver, he applauded local jurisdictions for their willingness to work together and to cooperate for a common — and regional — good.
Rowland’s counterpart in Chattanooga, Mayor Ron Littlefield, was on board as well with the regional significance.
“Amazon.com’s investment is good for the people of our region not only because it represents new jobs, but also because it is a major investment by a world-class company that stretches across county lines,” Littlefield said. “Amazon.com is helping us keep our local economy diverse while demonstrating our ability to work together as a region.”
Trevor Hamilton, vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and another player in Hamilton County’s bid to secure one of the distribution centers, also pointed to the regional approach. He also included Volkswagen in the team approach because the German automobile maker in Enterprise South worked to make land available for the Amazon.com fulfillment center in that county.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who will leave the local office in January to become Gov.-elect Bill Haslam’s new deputy governor and chief of staff, welcomed Amazon to the area. He acknowledged many considered the Amazon.com plans as a “done deal,” but recognized the mutual work of government jurisdictions.
State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents the 22nd Legislative District which encompasses the Amazon.com site near Exit 33 off Interstate 75, and State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who represents the 24th Legislative District (Cleveland), also addressed the regional benefits that the pair of fulfillment centers will bring to Southeast Tennessee.
They touched on the level of cooperation necessary between government jurisdictions and economic development interests to bring this kind of industrial recruitment to fruition.
Amazon.com has put the two developments on a “fast track” and expects both to be completed and fully operating before Christmas 2011.