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High-tech firms close to Roane deal

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

Roane Newspapers

The county is closing in on a $1 million land deal that officials contend has the potential to create 450 jobs at the Roane Regional Business and Technology Park.

According to information provided by Leslie Henderson, president and chief executive officer of The Roane Alliance, Sam Weaver is buying more than 40 acres in the back of Roane Regional to run his companies.

The businesses coming to the park as part of the deal include Red Diamond Ceramics, Cool Energy Inc. and Proton Power.

Red Diamond Ceramics manufactures products for use in ceramic armor.

The company is expected to invest $3 million, employ 50 people over five years and pay an average salary of $50,000.

“It’s huge,” Henderson said. “We’re bringing in high-quality, high-tech, high-wage jobs.”

Cool Energy develops solar energy products. According to its Web site, Cool Energy has facilities in Boulder, Colo., and Knoxville.

The information provided by Henderson states that the company is expected to invest $11 million, create 400 jobs over five years and pay an average salary of $45,000.

Proton Power was described as a startup company focused on developing innovative ways to generate energy.

Despite infrastructure improvements needed for the project, Henderson didn’t seem concerned about the deal with Weaver falling through.

“I have not gotten the check, but it’s a done deal,” she said.

The deal also includes the Smith house and all its outbuildings.

Weaver is described as a serial entrepreneur with an extensive business background.

According to the Cool Energy Web site, Weaver started his first company in 1970 and has served as president and CEO of nine companies that he founded over the last 35 years.

“The Weaver project, that is a company that is developing new things,” said Bob Kyker, a member of the Industrial Development Board of Roane County.

“I particularly like that kind of industry. They have a pretty good success rate and they’ve got several projects that they’re looking at.”

Part of the land Weaver is reported to be buying includes a 14-acre riverfront parcel at the far back of the park.

Tom Bennett, the engineer adviser for the industrial board, said Tuesday that in order for that parcel to be developed, sewer and road im-provements are needed.

The infrastructure upgrades will fall on the county. The industrial board is looking at applying for $1.5 million in grant money to pay for the improvements.

Bennett said they recently met with the Tennessee Department of Transportation about the road extension that will be needed to service the back parcel.

He said TDOT must first determine if the Weaver project is eligible for a grant.

“Do they have enough jobs or are they the kind of jobs that TDOT would then provide us a grant to do the road,” Bennett told the industrial board.

“We don’t know the answer to that yet. We’re providing them with the information that they need to determine eligibility. Then if they determine that it is an eligible activity, there’s a long, drawn out process by which you have to go through to get the grant money.”