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Sunday, January 5, 2014

The New Eastman Ballfields - The Impact on Riverview And a Major-League Relocation, Part 1


Groundbreaking for Eastman's Project Inspire, Tuesday, October 29, 2014

The face of Kingsport is changing, and the community of Riverview is right in the cross hairs.

Eastman Chemical Company, who moved its corporate headquarters to the Riverview Community years ago, is now launching a new corporate business center right across the street from those offices, with Riverview being the closest neighborhood nearby.

The new center on South Wilcox Drive is called Project Inspire, and will create 300 new jobs over the next seven years, as part of a $1.6 billion dollar investment to keep Eastman's corporate headquarters in the city where the company began 93 years ago.

Eastman President and CEO Jim Rogers says the new office building will complement the current headquarters and the Toy Reid Eastman Employee Center right across the street.

Before and after pictures below.. at left is empty baseball field; at right, full profile of Project Inspire building as it will sit in the same photograph, with pedestrian bridge over Wilcox Drive on right


The new Project Inspire building will be built on what is now the Eastman ballfields on South Wilcox Drive, which will prompt their move (that story coming up in Part 2 of our series). The new building will be five stories tall, and contain 300,000 square feet. According to a news release, 100 of the 300 new jobs will be business support position, and the remaining 200 jobs will be professional positions. In addition, 200 contractor jobs will be necessary to build the building.

"Eastman could have gone anywhere with their corporate headquarters they wanted to, instead of keeping them in Kingsport," Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey of Blountville was quoted in the Kingsport Times News as saying at the groundbreaking for the new building. "We wanted to make absolutely sure they stay right here in Northeast Tennessee.

At left, empty baseball field looking east in the direction of the glass plant; at right, profile of south side of Project Inspire building as it will sit in the same photograph

Just as the state of Tennessee did with providing a financial incentive to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga, the state's Economic Development Department put together a $30 million dollar grant to support the Eastman expansion, $20 million dollars in FastTrack money to begin and continue construction of the new building, and $10 million dollars to train people for the 300 jobs, at R.C.A.M, the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in downtown Kingsport.

Rogers, who will leave his CEO position on January 1st, says the company will not shut down any of its existing buildings, but some personnel will transfer to offices in the Project Inspire building.

At left, looking east across ballfield from Wilcox Drive, directly at the silos, past the glass plant; at right, where Project Inspire building will sit in the same photograph, coming to a point at Wilcox Drive

Since the new building will be right across South Wilcox Drive from the parking lot that separates the company headquarters and the Toy Reid Employee Center, Kingsport will assist in building access roads from Wilcox, as well as a pedestrian bridge that will span across Wilcox.

The new building will feature a cafeteria and dining area, customer meeting space and a fitness center.

Eastman President Mark Costa, who will become company CEO when Rogers leaves, says the new building will bring all of Eastman's business people under one roof, and says "it's been a long journey to get where the company is today, with designed offices built for the next generation of business relationships.

From the ballfields looking west across Wilcox Drive.. if you look to the woods in the background of this picture, just to the right of the corner of the Toy Reid Employee Center, you'll see where in Riverview, the area the ballfields are moving to

As mentioned, the Project Inspire building will require all of Eastman's current ballfields to move to a new area, and as it turns out.. that new area was no secret to company planners, city planners and new partner Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department.

Residents of Riverview always knew the new ballfields would be near them.

But the LOCATION of the ballfields within that new area, has apparently come as a complete surprise to the Riverview Community.

That story is coming up in Part 2 of our special report.