HUNTSVILLE — Although many Scott Countians may not have realized it was gone to start with, J&M Grading Division is moving back to Huntsville.

Company owner Joe Potter announced Thursday afternoon that he is in the initial stages of preparing to move his multimillion company, which mostly does large TDOT projects such as interstate grading, back to Scott County. The announcement came at a ceremonial groundbreaking on the piece of property where the company's new offices will be built — a vacant lot across the street from Tennier Industries.

Originally a part of the operation his brother, Dwayne Potter, currently operates as Potter Southeast, Joe Potter moved J&M Grading from Huntsville to Maryville in 2005.

Potter said family — his three sons, Jordan, Aaron and Hayden, all live in Scott County, and he has a new grandson, Trace — was a big draw back to Huntsville. He also credited Scott County Chamber of Commerce executive director Stacey Kidd when asked what made him decide to come back home.

"Stacey is a great recruiter for Scott County," Potter said. "She works hard to recruit new industry, and she sold me."

Kidd, in turn, said the credit belonged with the Industrial Development Board of Scott County.

According to a paper distributed at the site of Thursday's ceremonial groundbreaking, J&M Grading plans to be in "full operation" in Scott County within 12 months. Potter, though, said his goals are more ambitious than that.

"I'm looking at a four-to-five month timeframe," he said. ""My goal is to have the building ready to move into by the end of the year."

J&M currently employs 35 workers. Twenty-one of those are from Scott County. Because the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development credits employed workers to their county of residence, the move will not impact Scott County's unemployment rate.

But Potter said projections are for 10-to-12 new employees in the months ahead.

"We want to add at least that many if not more than that," he said, adding that the company is currently negotiating contract possibilities that would allow for expansion.

"We want to exceed what we've got," Potter said. "We're looking at some opportunities."

In the meantime, the company will invest $1.6 million in its new Scott County site — including office space and an equipment storage facility.

In addition to his parents, Huntsville Mayor George W. Potter and Norma Jean Potter, Joe Potter was joined by a number of other family members at Thursday's announcement.

ID Board chairman Jim Swann and board member Greg Jeffers were on hand, as were representatives of Huntsville Utility District, Plateau Electric Cooperative, First National Bank, United Cumberland Bank, Citizens First Bank, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals was on hand, as was county commissioner and Community Development committee chairman Paul Strunk.

"We all say over and over when we're teenagers that we're leaving this danged place and never coming home," Tibbals said. "But the allure of Scott County always brings you home."