The Tennessee Valley Authority will contribute $250,000 in grant funds toward an estimated $3.1 million cost to grade and further prepare an 85-acre industrial site the East Tennessee Progress Center, city officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

The Tennessee Department of Community of Economic Development earlier awarded a $1 million site development grant. The balance will come from past industrial property sales, according to Joey Barnard, assistant city administrator. Barnard says the parcel is large enough to build a million-square-foot facility.

Marshall Ramsey, president of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, says that in today’s competitive industrial-recruitment environment, having a graded and tested building pad is no longer a luxury.

Ramsey said this morning that Morristown gets, on average, about one industrial inquiry per week. Without a pre-graded site, Ramsey says, that number would fall to approximately eight to 10 per year.

Ramsey, who indicated he’s spoken with a “couple of interested parties already” about the property, says it would have been impossible to even pitch ETPC property to Van Hool, a Belgian bus manufacturer, without a graded site.

The 85-acre site, which will be graded in the spring, is about twice the size of the Van Hool property.

For large industries like Van Hool, which plans to spend tens of millions of dollars, the time savings associated with a fully prepared building site are just as important as the money, according to the chamber president.

In addition to grading, the development costs will include a resistivity test, a sonic examination that detects voids like sinkholes, as well as the presence of rock, which can substantially raise the cost of excavation, according to the chamber president.

The site-preparation tests required to be designated a Select Tennessee Certified Site include core drillings, along with archaeological, endangered-species and environmental examinations, according to Ramsey.

Ramsey says the Select Tennessee Certified Site gives industrial prospects “another level of reassurance.”