Thursday, October 6, 2011
Officials tour rail yard, other sites
By SUE WATSON
A number of local and state officials met with developer William Adair last week to tour the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Yard in Rossville, Tenn. The facility is expected to open in October 2012.
The group, including U.S. Sen. Alan Nunnelee, members of the local delegation, board of supervisors and Mississippi Department of Transportation engineers, visited Adair’s properties under development in Mississippi and Tennessee.
The officials discussed Highway 72 four-laning and construction of the interchange at 72 that will connect Adair’s new road to the intermodal yard with 72 and Highway 302.
Adair presented a history of the intermodal yard project and his belief that eventually the developments in Marshall and Fayette counties will provide 20,000 new jobs, said Bill Mobley, executive director of the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority.
The projects are important to Marshall County, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“He briefed the congressman, who said he is extremely impressed and would work for the projects’ completion,” Mobley said. “It was a show-and-tell type meeting to show what is going on and inform the congressional delegation. It’s going to be a boom – I-269, Highway 72 and the intermodal yard.”
Adair said the road construction, that was on the books to be built in 10 to 12 years, will now be completed in about three years, because of the Norfolk Southern investment.
The Rossville intermodal yard will be the largest of 27 in the Crescent Corridor – a rail system that connects rail, highway, water and air transportation systems east of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to New England and beyond.
Norfolk Southern at first considered locating the intermodal yard between Tennessee Highway 57 and the railroad, but decided to build on the south side of 57 and tie in the truck traffic at Highways 72 and 302 in Marshall County. The tie-in in Marshall County will provide the best routes for trucks – an anticipated 2,000 a day in about 2020 – to existing and new highway systems. Adair has 1,200 acres in Marshall County and 500 acres in Fayette County in industrial parks.
There will be many spin-off projects as a result of the intermodal yard, he said.
Adair provides historical background
Adair was born in Shelby County, Tenn., the son of a sharecropper and dairyman. The family lived in a house without electricity until he was age 12. He attended Collierville schools and graduated from Collierville High as did his six daughters.
At age 19, Adair put in a body shop at 395 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tenn., next door to Hoehn Chevrolet. Later he opened a salvage yard, then a parts warehouse and a car lot.
The next step was to open a chain of body shops in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tenn. He then founded Permanent General Insurance, with a partner in Nashville, in 1980. He sold out in 1989, and then opened Direct Insurance in Nashville with his wife and six girls as partners.
In 12 years, Direct Insurance grew with offices in 13 states. The company was doing $1 billion a year in business and had 2,600 employees.
Adair sold Direct four years ago and put his energy behind the current projects in Fayette and Marshall counties.
Two years ago he began working with Norfolk Southern on the intermodal yard development. He sold NS the land and is doing all the dirt work. With about 90 percent of the dirt work completed, Adair thinks the project is on schedule and in good shape.
The intermodal yard is surrounded by a 28-foot berm which will be topped with trees to assure the project has a good sound buffer and greenspace for development that will come later – construction of a complete community in the Piperton area.
“We went the extra mile to make sure this would not affect our residents out here,” he said.
The Norfolk Southern project has opened up the area for industrial and residential development. Adair said he already has about 50 companies interested in sites on both sides of the state line – about one-third are industrial companies and one-third will need access to rail.
The development project is the largest Adair has undertaken and he has said it will be his last. He has done development projects in Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and in Canada.
“I decided to come back home and do a major development,” he said.
“There’s 7.5 miles north to south across this project.”
The new community will offer a variety of stepped housing projects from those in the $250,000 or so range, to gated communities with $1 million private homes and gated condo communities. The areas will have 10-foot wide bike and golf cart paths over the entire project. There will be many lake-front lots.
The housing development will provide 4,500 residential homes with one mile of river walks, a town center, a school and some community colleges.
“It will be a place where a family can work, shop, live and go to school in the community,” Adair said. “There’s nothing quite like it.”
A young family can get a start, work at a good-paying job, raise a family, then when they can afford it they can step up into a better home, he said.
Adair’s vision is to build a community with charter schools and maybe a community college satellite campus that will provide a quality education to residents, especially those who cannot afford private schools.
“I think we have done a great job in putting something in place to give back to the community,” he said. “Our goal is to live here, work here, go to school here, and shop here – the whole thing.”
Adair said his vision is for kids to receive an education so they can get good jobs.
“I came out of a poor family,” he said. “I went to Collierville High School in the ’50s. I owe my success in life to my high school teachers and a few mentors after that. My whole desire is to create a community with great schools.”
Adair said he wants to take a portion of what is created by the economic development to put back into the schools in Fayette and Marshall counties – two counties whose schools are about on the same level, he said.
“My goal is to give those kids a quality education and number-one jobs,” he said.
He believes crime – stealing and drug crimes – are the result of uneducated children who are unprepared to make a living.
Adair lives in Senatobia where he has a 5,000-acre cattle farm.
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