Politicians promised 10 years ago that if they invested millions of taxpayer dollars in a northwest Tennessee port they would create thousands of new jobs and deliver prosperity to an economically-distressed region.
But, thus far, that project, the Port of Cates Landing, has not created so much as one position.
And this week officials with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) accepted $7 million in federal taxpayer money hoping that, this time, this investment of money will finally turn things around.
TNECD officials published a press release this week that said area officials will use this money to connect a rail to the port itself.
As The Tennessee Watchdog reported in 2010, politicians promised that the Port of Cates Landing would create 2,000 jobs.
County mayors, county commissioners, a U.S. congressman, and even academics at Middle Tennessee State University predicted a decade ago that this port, along the Mississippi River, would bring economic salvation.
Local, state and federal money paid for the first $35 million.
Federal stimulus dollars in 2009 and 2010 paid for an additional $15 million.
The Tennessee Star asked TNECD spokeswoman Jennifer McEachern whether, in 2020, any companies want to conduct business at the port.
“ECD does not comment on unannounced projects,” McEachern said in an email.
“However, we continue to actively market the Port to companies that are interested in locating or expanding operations in the state.”
The Star then asked whether all the prior taxpayer investment has created any jobs.
“We have not located a project at the Port as of September 2020, but with the $7 million BUILD Grant, we are hopeful that once the project is complete, the Port will be in a better position for future investment and job creation.”
The Star asked McEachern to assure taxpayers that all of the money they have invested will eventually bring results. She chose not to answer the question.
Officials with the Northwest Tennessee Port Authority, who oversee the project, did not return The Star’s requests for comment Friday.
As Tennessee Watchdog reported in 2010, Lakes County’s economy has suffered for decades, and many residents live on government assistance. To get the stimulus money for the port, area officials told federal officials that companies like Con-Agra wanted to do business there. Con-Agra officials, however, later denied that.
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