"Part of the site is in Trousdale," says the 4 Lake Executive Committee's Anthony Holt. "Part of it in Smith County."
In the gently rolling hills outside Hartsville, Indiana, in the shadow of a nuclear power plant TVA never completed, is the 554 acre Powercom Industrial Center, operated by the 4 Lake Industrial Authority. The authority was created to attract industry and create new jobs for people in Trousdale, Smith, Macon, Sumner and Wilson Counties. Since buying this property in 2002, it has spent over 13.5 million state and federal tax dollars on this land and these buildings, moch of which don't have indoor plumbing.
"I would go and tour the property," says State Representative Mark Pody (R-Lebanon). "I do not see where $13 million has been spent on that property."
Representative Pody started looking into how 4 Lake was spending your money right after he was elected last Fall. He tried to reconcile the authority's claims it had created 207 jobs, with all these vacant buildings and the fact there's more wildlife on the property than people. Pody's own analysis, which looked at jobs created and those lost, concluded your millions actually generaged a net of just 16 new jobs.
"I wish I could just say it wasted it. I believe it's worse than that," says Pody. "I don't even think some of 'em cared about it."
Pody is now calling for an end to any new tax dollars until he's convinced your money won't be wasted. He isn't alone.
"A lot of money has been put in the site," says Holt. "We really don't have a tremendous amount to show for it."
Holt believes the site suffers form an identity crisis and that the authority's staff has done little to change that. A picture, suggesting even locals don't know who they are, was on the cover of the authority's most recent annual report. Holt says it's time for new leadership.
"We need to hire the right person that really has the connections and understands how ECD works to make it a viable site," says Holt.
To be fair, the authority has spent a lot of money on things you can't see: underground water and sewer lines and dual power sources to prevent service interruptions. If not for the one that got away, the man running the authority says 4 Lake might have a much different story to tell.
Former Trousdale County Executive Jerry Clift signed on as the authority's Executive Director last year. He says if the Corrections Corporation of America had completed a prison on land it bought from 4 Lake it would have created 350 new jobs. For now, the CCA cells are empty and rusting, another example of the site's unrealized potential.
"We've been working on this but it's not an overnight fix. I'm not saying they didn't do what was right at first. I think they were," says Clift. "The problem was their hands were tied in trying to get the infrastructure together. There was zero infrastructure and that's what we're doing."
Clift admits his experience at attracting new industry is limited, but blames politics for being on the hot seat. He says he's prepared to leave if that's what it takes to keep 4 Lake afloat. Representative Pody says the bottom line is results. Last year, the 4 Lake Authority only spent $20,000 on advertising. Too little, critics say, to get this site on the radar of companies looking to expand or relocate. The authority's Executive Committee will meet in special session on Thursday in Gallatin to talk about leadership. Unless changes are made, Representative Pody says the money funding 4 Lake will dry up next Summer.
Monday, November 14 2011, 08:31 PM CST
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