Op-Ed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross: Three Tennessee Communities will Receive Opportunity Zone Grants
Mon, 08/10/2020 – 11:33


On Monday, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) will award three grants totaling $5.1 million to fund construction of infrastructure to support new facilities and hundreds of jobs located in Opportunity Zones in the state of Tennessee.

These grants mark an important milestone, as EDA has now surpassed $500 million in investments into Opportunity Zones across the country since 2018.

This critical funding attracts private investment, creates jobs, enhances infrastructure, and supports the construction of new factories.

These investments generate tax revenue for local and state governments, support local businesses, and provide new hope and opportunities for millions of Americans living in distressed economic areas.

These places are receiving the grants

In Baxter, representatives from the White House, EDA, Governor Bill Lee’s office, Tennessee’s House and Senate congressional delegation, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, and mayors and city council members from Baxter, South Pittsburg, and Mountain City are celebrating the award of these transformative new grants.

The City of Baxter will receive $1.1 million to make improvements to the water and wastewater infrastructure required for the construction of a $150 million factory and corporate headquarters by Portobello America. Portobello will employ more than 200 workers.

Portobello America is Brazil’s largest producer of ceramic tiles. The company’s Tennessee facility will help rebuild the U.S. presence in this essential industry. It will generate jobs well beyond Baxter, as companies in the supply chain will provide the factory with minerals, materials, parts, components, equipment, energy, and technical, professional, and business services.

The City of South Pittsburg will use their $1.9 million grant to build a liquid natural gas storage and re-gasification system to provide uninterrupted energy during peak periods of demand to two major companies. The grants will leverage $31 million being invested by Valmont Industries, and $41 million by Mueller Co. The two companies will create a combined 450 new jobs and retain more than 200 others.

The $1.5 million grant the Town of Mountain City will receive will upgrade the wastewater facilities in its Opportunity Zone. The improved infrastructure will enable a flooring manufacturing firm to expand its production. It will also attract additional investment from other companies that have expressed interest in moving production to the region.

These EDA grants will have multiple-positive impacts on workers, families, and Tennessee communities for generations to come.

About Opportunity Zones

Developed by President Trump and Congress under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones provide public-private partnerships with incentives to revitalize areas that have fallen into economic hardship.

All of EDA’s grants to more than 365 Opportunity Zone projects around the country have been driven by local governments identifying projects that they retain and create jobs in underserved communities. There are more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones located throughout the United States. All are eligible for EDA grants.

And this year, during the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the need could not be greater. Workers and families across the country have suffered greatly due to the pandemic, our economically disadvantaged communities have struggled the most.

The Commerce Department will continue to work with the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, the Small Business Administration, HUD, and local and state economic development offices to generate billions of dollars of private-sector investment in Opportunity Zones.

We are committed to continuing this investment in the Opportunity Zones located throughout the great state of Tennessee.

Wilbur Ross is the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.