New transformer factory and $80K grant announced at 3 Star appreciation dinner

CELINA-The first annual Clay County Three Star appreciation dinner was held here last Thursday at Clay County High School to recognize the beneficial work of the volunteer committee, but the event also ended up serving as a platform for a pair of big local announcements.

The 160 dinner-invitees, which included volunteers who made a contribution to the Three Star Program, local government officials, and special guests, learned a new company would soon begin manufacturing transformers in the former Hevi-Duty factory building here and found out the county would receive a total of $80,000 in grant money from a new economic development program administered by Tennessee Technological University (TTU).

Grant money

BIG BOOST-Clay County learned they would be granted $80,000 from the TECH-REDI program at the Three Star Appreciation dinner. Pictured from left to right are Dr. David Elizandro, Dr. Susan Elkins, schools director Donnie Cherry, county mayor Dale Reagan, city mayor Willie Kerr, Diana Donaldson, Dr. Doug Young, and chamber director Ray Norris. (photo submitted)

After enjoying a welcome speech by both county mayor Dale Reagan and city mayor Willie Kerr, attendees were brought up to speed on the money the county will receive through the new grant program.

Keynote speaker and TTU vice president Dr. Susan Elkins informed them the county was awarded five separate grants under the TECH-REDI (Regional Economic Development Initiative) program, which is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

Funding of $500,000 was created for counties in the Upper Cumberland and Clay County will receive:

• $30,000 for the Clay County auditorium project at the fairgrounds for the addition of a kitchen and restrooms;

• $15,000 to the Northern Plateau Alliance (Clay, Fentress and Pickett Counties) for the new Scenic Byway driving tourism route beginning at the Cumberland Gap on US 25E, traversing eight counties (160 miles), and terminating here–which will enhance year-round tourism traffic in the Clay County area;

• $15,000 additional to the Northern Plateau Alliance for a series of television spot commercials called “tourism to retirement” on public television station WCTE providing information to a nationwide audience based on cultural heritage, history, and natural beauty–which will affect tourism development and possibly attract a retirement community to the counties on the Northern Plateau;

• $15,000 for the Upper Cumberland Tourism Campaign to promote awareness of the Upper Cumberland region to more than 1.5 million viewers via WCTE–which will affect tourism development; and

• $5,000 for further renovation of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce facility to include media systems equipment and an awning.

New factory

COMING TO TOWN-V&F Transformer Company co-owner, vice president, and CFO Dean Foderaro announced he and his company would soon begin manufacturing operations in Celina in the former Hevi-Duty building at the recent Three Star Appreciation dinner. (photo submitted)

Chamber of commerce director Ray Norris then informed the audience the Celina/Clay County Joint Industrial Development Board had reached agreement with V&F Transformer Company located in Bartlett, IL to locate a manufacturing presence in the former Hevi-Duty factory here.

Norris introduced V&F co-owner, vice president, and CFO Dean Foderaro, who explained the company had grown substantially during the recession and reached capacity at its Illinois plant, therefore warranting the expansion here.  He also said he fully expects their growth to continue and wants to begin relocation in December.

He further noted V&F management was very impressed with the opportunity in Clay County and will likely build a home here in the future.

Foderaro said Travis Cherry, a former Hevi Duty employee, will be the manager at the Celina plant and explained they have already begun interviewing/selecting a core group of employees.  Cherry and the initial group will spend several weeks at the Illinois facility to learn the product and processes V&F uses, which will allow them to train additional employees hired for production here.

Progress made

Three Star co-chair Dr. Doug Young served as the final speaker and recognized all committee members and participants by thanking them for the hundreds of hours participating in bringing progress and growth to the county.

He also reviewed the progress made in Clay County over the past two years including:

• the new $5 million Proctor Creek bridge and related improvement of Highway 52 from the Cumberland River Bridge to Walker Hill;

• the $55 million Corridor J project, which will create a new four lane highway from the Overton/Clay County line and feed into the Brown Street and Highway 53 intersection;

• the new Celina city hall facility just recently finished;

• the new addition to the Community Center to house a new courtroom and new county offices;

• water line extensions for Clifton Rich Road, Hogan Road and Chilton Road residents;

• improvements made to State Highway 294 in the Willow Grove area;

• September sales tax collections up for Clay County 5.6% over September of last year;

• resurfacing of State Highway 53 to the Kentucky state line;

• resurfacing old highway 53;

• resurfacing several city streets, including East Lake Avenue;

• construction of a new Headstart Center;

• remodeling of the health department building;

• remodeling of the Chamber of Commerce building;

• newly installed HVAC system for the Clay County Schools ($130,000 grant); and

• replacement of old water and sewer lines along with new water meters.

The co-sponsors of the dinner were Macon Bank & Trust and Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative Corporation, decorations were provided by Joey’s Flowers and Gifts, and servers were members of the Clay County High School Leo Club.

Those interested in participating in Three Star activities may contact the Chamber of Commerce for information at 243-3338.  See more details about TECH-REDI in a future HORIZON.