Lowe's center could bring 175 new jobs

By Thomas Wilson

   For the first time in some time, scores of jobs could be coming into, instead of leaving, Carter County.
   A Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse is expected to open in Elizabethton later this year bringing home improvement supplies galore to do-it-yourselfers. More importantly, the Elizabethton store represents a $16.5 million investment by the company and up to 175 new jobs for the community, according to the company.
   The home super store will have 116,000 square feet of retail space plus an additional 31,000 square feet for the store's garden center. The influx of service-industry jobs would be welcome news to city and county officials. The community has been crippled by hundreds of job losses in the past two years as manufacturing operations have closed their doors.
   The Lowe's development includes a frontage road parallel to West Elk Avenue extending from the Wal-Mart Supercenter to Tony Fuller Road. However, project developers and city officials may have to address the path of the road given the location of a neighboring property owner's right of way.
   Charles VonCannon, owner of the Bemberg Industrial Center, cautioned the Elizabethton Planning Commission members at their February meeting about the presence of a right of way he owned in close proximity to the Lowe's development. According to the tax map in the Assessor of Property's office, the Bemberg Industrial Center, Inc. property includes a right of way extending between the existing Wal-Mart store and the U.S. Post Office property on West Elk Avenue.
   The right of way permits access to the Bemberg Center from Tony Fuller Drive, a city street extending west of the existing Wal-Mart store and parallel to the right of way. VonCannon has been at odds with the city for some years regarding the presence of his right of way in the vicinity of Tony Fuller Drive.
   City officials are also lobbying the Tennessee Department of Transportation for a traffic signal at West Elk Avenue and Wallace Avenue. Transportation officials advised in a letter sent to city administration in December that the intersection did not meet necessary traffic requirements to warrant the installation of a traffic light.
   Based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe's Companies, Inc., ranks as the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world reporting fiscal year sales of $30.8 billion for 2003. Lowe's operates 950 home improvement stores in 45 states. Lowe's presently operates 36 stores in Tennessee with new locations under construction in McMinnville, Harriman, Shelbyville and Millington. The company averages opening two new "super store" locations each month.
   Bristol, Va., Johnson City, and Boone, N.C., are home to Lowe's super stores in the region. In 2004, Fortune magazine named Lowe's America's "Most Admired Specialty Retailer" for the second consecutive year.