Knoxville-based Holston Gases plans to expand its operations in a multi-million-dollar investment along the Interstate 275 corridor that is expected to bring more jobs to Knoxville.
The company, which distributes industrial, medical and specialty gases across several states, has agreed to buy the Brookside Mills property, a brownfield site in the heart of the city’s Downtown North Redevelopment Area for $1.8 million.
Bill Baxter, chairman of Holston Gases, Inc., announced Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, that his company will expand to the former Brookside Mills property in the I-275 Corridor.

Holston Gases board chairman Bill Baxter said Tuesday the company plans to build a state-of-the art gas pumping facility (See Video) as well as a warehouse and office complex on the 19.5-acre property at 523 Baxter Ave.

“For us to have the chance to expand here in Knoxville really means a great a deal to us. With this expansion we are committing to being in Knoxville for many, many more years,” Baxter said at a news conference in the City County Building. “We’re proud to be associated with companies like Sysco and others that are bringing investment and good-paying, long-term jobs there. That’s what we want to do.”

A $50 million Sysco Corp. distribution center that opened in May 2008 was the first significant investment along the I-275 business corridor. Three Rivers Market, a locally-owned natural foods grocery store, celebrated its grand opening on Baxter Avenue last month.

Knoxville Mayor Daniel Brown called the Holston expansion “another major step in the revitalization of the Downtown North Redevelopment area.”

Holston Gases is sited on prime South Knoxville riverfront property. The Knoxville-based company announced Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, that it will expand to the I-275 Corridor where Brookside Mills formerly was located.

The I-275 corridor, Brown said, was “once filled with industries that employed thousands of people, but for a long time all you saw there was abandoned properties where nothing was going on and it looked like nothing ever would. The city has worked to change that, and thankfully, thanks to good companies like Holston Gases, this area is going to change and continue to grow in a positive direction.”

Baxter said finding good commercial industrial property within the city limits of major metropolitan areas is “a tough thing to do.” But the old Brookside Mills site, where a textile mill was built in 1885 and at its peak employed about 1,000 people, provided a unique opportunity.

The property purchase must be approved by the city of Knoxville Industrial Development Board but a tentative closing date has been set for Nov. 3. No public financing was used for the project.

The initial phase will result in a $10 million investment and about 20 to 30 new jobs. Holston Gases currently employs about 300 people.

The old Brookside Mills property on Baxter Avenue sits vacant. Knoxville-based Holston Gases announced Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, that it will expand to the I-275 Corridor where Brookside Mills formerly was located. 2005 Amy Smotherman-Burgess, News Sentinel staff

“We’ll see where that will lead. Obviously, the goal is with those new capabilities and a superior location from a distribution standpoint, it will give us a longer reach,” Baxter said.

Holston Gases has 24 locations Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Kentucky, but the company has the opportunity to grow into Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, North Georgia and possibly South Carolina. Knoxville would remain the hub, he said.

The company will continue operations at its existing headquarters on the South Knoxville waterfront just below the Gay Street Bridge, where there has been talk about redeveloping the waterfront.

Baxter said the company is interested in participating in those efforts when the right opportunity comes along.

“So taking this step at least gives us some future options in that regard,” he said. “Right now, the highest and best use of that property from our standpoint is to continue growing Holston Gases.”

Lauren Rider, president of Historic Old North Knoxville Inc., called the announcement “welcome news to an active local residential neighborhood.”

“This 19.5 acre brownfield site has been vacant for many years and redevelopment has been uncertain. The residents of North Knoxville have long wondered when and what would take over this large parcel of land,” Rider said in a statement. “The neighbors I’ve talked to today are excited to welcome Holston Gas to this new location and look forward to this addition to our community.”