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USA: Amazon, Nissan keys to rebound

MURFREESBORO — The combination of an Amazon.com distribution facility here and Nissan’s all-electric Leaf in Smyrna is positioning Rutherford County for a strong rebound from recession, local leaders say.

“It’s all going to have a positive impact, and what’s happening at Nissan with the Leaf is a positive. That could take off and be a big seller,” said Terry Haynes, owner of Haynes Bros. Lumber Co. and founding campaign chair of Destination Rutherford, the Chamber of Commerce’s jobs initiative.

“We’ve been through a pretty tough time,” he added. “We’re not out of it yet, but I wouldn’t trade places with anybody in America.”

The Murfreesboro Planning Commission approved construction plans last week at the request of Corporate Woods G.P. for a proposed 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center on 87.7 acres on Joe B. Jackson Parkway near Interstate 24. Because the deal isn’t official yet, planning officials discussed it under the codename Project Tango, but state Economic and Community Development Director Bill Hagerty confirmed two weeks ago Project Tango is Amazon.

The Seattle-based Internet retail giant negotiated an agreement with Gov. Bill Haslam and the Department of Economic and Community Development to start remitting sales taxes to the state in 2014 as part of a deal to open two more facilities in Tennessee, investing $350 million in Tennessee over three years and bringing its workforce to 3,500. Under previous state agreements, Amazon paid no sales taxes.

Meanwhile, the lithium-ion battery plant for Nissan’s Leaf is expected to be complete in late 2012 with the first Leaf rolling off the assembly line in December next year. The $1.4 billion investment is set to add 1,300 jobs at the Smyrna plant.

The Nissan Leaf recently won Electric Vehicle of the Year at the 2011 GreenFleet Awards competition in the United Kingdom. The organization praised the Leaf for its “five-door practicality” and 110-mile range, but that could be considered a stumbling block by some potential consumers accustomed to gas-powered engines.

Installation of fast-chargers was to begin this month in Tennessee, with only a few high-speed 440-volt charges installed in the United States to this point. The vehicle has a built-in 110-volt charger that can plug in to a standard power outlet, taking 20 to 24 hours to charge.
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