Build It and They Might Come
Industrial park still looking for first tenant
Saturday, April 20, 2013 5:00 AM
It's been six years since a 62-acre plot of land at Hutchinson Lane and Shun Pike was first marketed as a "shovel-ready park," for businesses looking to locate in the Madison area.
This site, advertised as "shovel ready" at Shun Pike and Hutchinson Road, has been vacant since the land was purchased more than six years ago.
The industrial park, encompassing 62 acres, was purchased with a $500,000 grant from the Lawrenceburg Regional Foundation. The grant was awarded to the city and county in October 2006, and the land was purchased in December 2006.
The site was designated shovel ready by the state in October 2007.
Shovel-ready means the pre-development title work, legal research, environmental studies and other documentation have been done. It also means that the site has the sewer lines, electric, water and high-speed Internet, which the state economic development agency said makes a site more marketable because a company can get right to work at building. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
With an industrial park came hopes for new jobs.
Since then, no buildings have been built on the land. The park remains as empty as the day the process started.
Despite that, there's still hope for the future of that land, a local economic development leader said.
The 62-acre industrial park has sewer lines, electric, water and high-speed Internet on site. Pre-development paperwork and environmental studies have already been done at the site.
"The park's great, but unfortunately there's no buildings on it," said Bernie Murphy, the interim director of the Economic Development Partners.
At the March meeting of the EDP board, Murphy reported that he had been investigating reasons why companies that showed interest in the area ultimately decided not to locate here.
He discovered 73 percent of those prospects cited a lack of adequate facilities as the reason for not selecting Madison and Jefferson County.
This week, Murphy said some of the companies who have been looking to locate in Madison mentioned the absence of prefabricated, or modular, buildings.
If the site included a couple of 25,000-sqaure-foot buildings, Murphy said, Madison might have attracted a few companies by now.
Murphy said constructing new buildings would be helpful because companies are less likely to move into an older building.
"Unfortunately, ... some of our buildings that are available, they're not in too great shape," Murphy said.
He is of the opinion that the modular buildings would need to be addressed in the city and county's strategic plan, which would be developed by an outside firm chosen by the proposed JC-INVEST board.
Murphy also said he believed the buildings should be energy efficient to further increase interest in the facility.
The biggest issue for constructing these buildings would be where the money comes from to fund the project. Murphy said it could funded between city and county or through entrepreneurs.
Murphy said he believed the county should target Internet businesses to the area.
But Morton Marcus, an economist who formerly headed the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, has a different viewpoint.
Marcus said companies decide where to locate based on what industries currently exist in a community. He gave the example of Elkhart, which he said prides itself on its RV manufacturing industry. Grand Design RV LLC announced Thursday it would create 500 new jobs with the addition of another plant.
"There's a tendency for industry to build upon itself," Marcus said.
Marcus also noted that Madison's industrial park became available shortly before the start of the recession. Companies began closing their doors, which led to an increase in facilities that could house a company. After that point, industries wanted an existing building or buildings to move into because it was cheaper than building a new facility.
"The recession knocked out all the interest in shovel-ready because there were so many buildings that were available," Marcus said. He said it wasn't a mistake to build the industrial park, it was just unfortunate timing.
Marcus said the biggest challenge is going to be getting the first business to show up because no one will want to be the only business in an industrial park.
"It's very hard to get people interested in economic development when you still have an economy that is growing, but not in a robust fashion," he said.
Murphy suggested the timeline on completion of the potential modular buildings would be between five and 10 years, but Marcus suggested speeding up that timeline to get buildings completed sooner.
"You're competing with every existing building within 100 to 150 miles," he said.
The city and county bought the land for the industrial park using $178,500 from the Madison Redevelopment Commission and a $500,000 grant from Lawrenceburg Regional Foundation.