UPDATE: Nippon Paint to invest $61 million at former Harriet Tubman public housing site
UPDATE: Mayor Andy Berke announced the fate of the Harriet Tubman housing site Monday. Nippon Paint, a Japanese company, will build an automotive paint plant. The city originally bought the land in 2014 and rezoned it for manufacturing earlier this year.
Mayor Berke says the plant will provide 150 new jobs to the community.
"Many of the jobs not only pay a good wage but they also are entry-level where people in the neighborhood can get there,” Berke said.
Nippon officials say the company is committed to hiring locals. But Marie Mott, who lives in District 8, says she worries the jobs won't actually go to East Chattanoogans.
"I'm just wondering, where are the applicants with this set of experience here in East Chattanooga?” she said.
Mott says people here don't have the right training or experience. She wanted to see the site become mixed-use buildings.
"Despite what they said that we just need jobs here in East Chattanooga, that's not all we need,” Mott said. “We need housing probably more than anything else."
Avondale Neighborhood Association President Ken Smith said housing is important. But he's focused on ways to get East Chattanoogans ready to work.
"We have to get our people ready to accept those jobs, we have to get our people ready for the training of the company and we just have to get ready,” Smith said.
Mott hopes those efforts work, but right now as someone living in the neighborhood, she feels left behind.
“It seems that if you are not important if you're just an everyday average working man or woman, what you want doesn't matter,” she said.
Jobs at the plant will pay an average of $15-17 an hour and will become available in the next few years. Construction on the facility is set to start in early 2020.
PREVIOUS STORY: Nippon Paint, currently a supplier to Toyota's Huntsville plant, will develop the former Harriet Tubman public housing site.
The announcement came in a Monday morning news conference.
The $61 million investment will create 150 new jobs at the 270,000 square foot plant on the 40-acre site, according to a release from the city.
Additionally, the company says they have committed to "sourcing as much labor as possible from the residential neighborhoods nearest the facility.
“The new manufacturing facility in Chattanooga is a key component of our strategic expansion plans for the Americas. Nippon Paint (USA) looks forward to bringing E-Coat production to the U.S. and expanding our paint and coating product offerings to our valuable automotive customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We look forward to this great opportunity to partner with the people and resources of Hamilton County and the great State of Tennessee,” said Tetsuro Fujita, the CEO of Nippon Paint (USA) Inc.
PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga city officials have planned a news conference for Monday morning at the site of the former Harriet Tubman public housing site.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Councilman Anthony Byrd and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe are expected to be at the event.
The 40-acre public housing site was demolished in 2014, and appears to have been dormant since then. But the tract was re-zoned in early 2019.