Many of you now know something needs to be done, but what?
If we are genuine in pursuit of business expansion we must begin planning and construction of a large scale industrial park.
Here is how I suggest we do that.
Option 1: Private sector delivers the product.
We give full opportunity to the private sector to satisfy this need. The need is simple in nature, but difficult in delivery. Local and regional standards dictate the following:
- A collection of 25/30 acre parcels with flat to rolling topography
- Free of environmental concern (phase 1 environmental performed)
- located in a planned industrial park
- near a major transportation line (Interstate 77 or State Route 7 preferably)
- With water, sewer (or a single package plant), electric, and telecom at the site
- With sale options on each 30 acre parcel set
Odds are a private individual cannot finance this so there must be a development agreement put in place with local governments (city and county) to collectively plan for its construction and utility improvement/extension to said park. This is why our Port Authority exists. We can bridge the divide between private and public sectors and broker deals for mutual benefit through our tax and corporate structure. We can offset taxes in many cases, create bond markets, provide capital financing. There are a bevy of resources at our disposal should we have a legitimate park concept be generated.
Should a private citizen or group not be able to satisfy the land requirement, a secondary option is preferred.
Option 2: Local government ownership of the land.
As Mr. Abbott indicated at our annual meeting in October, possession of tax delinquent property or outright sale for future development is essential to land control for park creation. If the county or one of our communities opted to secure a land holding for eventual park development, the same long term development agreement for utility extension and regional planning should be struck. Similarly, the land, since it is community owned can be positioned at a reduced rate of sale as an incentive for large scale job creation. For example, if the costs of land in an industrial park are $40,000/acre shovel ready, this rate can be negotiated down to $30,000/acre with a business agreeing to create 100+ jobs and maintain that employment total for at least 5 years. That is how economic development incentives work these days.
I mentioned last evening that we currently do not own property, and we have been at odds with local governments and some private sector actors who believe we should continue to exist only as a conduit and not a land controller. This attitude is one that has put us in this position and continued belief that the private sector will alone suffice will have us in the same conversation in 20 years.
The instruments to creation of the next great place for business in our community are already at our disposal, the will has been lagging. In the midst of our school levies and sewer and water planning, industrial park development is the likely second act. It is my hope that in the wake of our conversation at the annual meeting we can begin having serious discussions with local and county governments that see partnerships with a private land development group for ownership and development, or county/municipal land ownership that is planned for with future utility expansion for creation of future industrial sites.
The Port has actively engaged persons in the community to submit industrial park plans and relevant partnership opportunities to work with the county and cities and few have emerged with viable options. We await confirmation from our elected that this is a venture worth pursuit and are at the table prepared to put our limited assets (roughly 1.2 million) to work on this venture as well.