Sale of Knox News building includes lengthy leaseback for newspaper

Scottie Johnson, a Knoxville-based leader in aftermarket battery applications, purchased the Knox News property from its parent company, Gannett, which pursued a strategy of selling properties and leasing back office and space. of production.

All Knox News operations, including the printing of the News Sentinel and other regional newspapers such as The Tennessean and the Lexington, Ky. Herald Leader, will continue at the factory, one of the world’s busiest newspaper presses. frequented countries. The newsroom, advertising, broadcast and human resources offices will remain in the building under the sale-leaseback agreement.

In total, Knox News will continue to use over 115,000 square feet of the building’s approximately 190,000 square feet on News Sentinel Drive, near the Mechanicsville neighborhood.

Newspaper operations will remain at the 2332 News Sentinel Drive property, which was purchased from Gannett by Scottie Johnson of XS Power Batteries for $ 8.5 million.  Johnson employees will move to offices on the first floor in 2023, while Knox News newsroom and advertising employees will work on the second floor of the building.

Johnson’s company will occupy much of the office space on the ground floor and he will rent additional office space on the first and second floors.

“It’s a great relationship for everyone,” said Joel Christopher, editor-in-chief of Knox News. “Scottie Johnson is ideally located to develop his rapidly growing local businesses, Knox News is entering into a long-term deal for its production and office needs, and other businesses have the option of leasing from a location with a terrific access to downtown, the airport and the interstate system. “

It plans to build an on-site manufacturing plant before moving its employees in 2023 to the current building which was built less than 20 years ago.

“This opportunity not only to buy a building, but also to buy a building with such a respected and well-known lead tenant, the newspaper, was obvious to me,” Johnson told Knox News. “I fully understand that the newspaper is not leaving anytime soon. The plan is for this business to continue to grow here.”

Johnson built his holdings on batteries

Johnson, an engineer who competed in national automotive audio competitions, arrived in Knoxville from Kentucky in 2006 to help a local company develop a new line of batteries.

He then bought this part of the business to start XS power batteries on Cherry Street in 2011, which creates batteries used in vehicles for aftermarket applications.

“Think racing cars, show cars and car stereo applications,” he said. “You name it. Everything that needs an incredibly powerful battery, we provide it. Compared to anything on the market, the product we make is of the highest quality and most powerful.”

Johnson later founded Show electronics, a distribution company that will also move into the ownership of Knox News.

He also bought another business, TurboStart Batteries, which has licenses from automobile manufacturers to create replica batteries for classic cars.

Johnson excited about the new location

The operations of these companies are based on two separate suites on Cherry Street, totaling only 15,000 square feet. Johnson currently employs around 30 people at his Knoxville-based businesses.

“It would be much higher, but we are running out of space,” he said. “We already have people working on top of each other so it’s inefficient. What we really need in our production business is around 12 production lines … but we don’t have currently only space for two. ”

Johnson said he spent three years researching an updated space. He considered building a new facility, but called his recent purchase a “major shortcut” to being able to grow his businesses.

He plans to build an approximately 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility on the highway side of the property in 2022. His Cherry Street lease ends at the end of next year, and Johnson intends to move employees to the new property in January 2023.

“I could work from home everyday if I wanted to, or I could work from a refrigerator,” he said. “I don’t need the most beautiful and fancy things, but my staff deserve it. They must have the most recent and efficient equipment. They must have a space adapted to their needs to be effective.

“We really want to make the family bigger.”

Adding employees to the property

After moving into the new facility, Johnson hopes to increase its workforce from around 30 to 100 employees within 18 months.

“I bought the property to make it prosper,” he said. “I want to do whatever I can do locally to make people want to work here and make it a good representation of Knoxville.”

Anyone interested in renting space in the building should contact [email protected]

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Ethel Nester

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