Originally created 09/12/99

Industrial parks given priority



If you have a car lot with no cars, then you don't have much to sell.

Local leaders involved in economic development say it's the same with industrial parks.

Developing land and infrastructure is vital to attracting industry. With local communities now competing in a global market, having an inventory of available land is vital; without it, a community risks losing jobs to other county's and states that do.

"Companies tend to be on a shorter time line than the time it would take to develop an infrastructure," said Bob Reich, executive director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. "You're not competitive unless you have something to offer."

Columbia County

In Columbia County, the industrial community is centered in two areas, Horizon South Industrial Park in Grovetown, which has only 32 acres remaining, and in the Columbia County Industrial District, where there are only 16 acres remaining.

John Deere will gobble up the last remaining large site in Horizon South -- 105 acres -- for a 206,000-square-foot expansion, a $23 million project with construction to begin in September.

Columbia County also has a 128,000-square-foot speculative building on the market for $2.1 million, which has been on the ground for about a year now.

"One of the things Columbia County leadership is going to have to look at is where do we go from here with the industrial park nearly full," Mr. Reich said.

County commissioners will be taking a hard look at that question since the county still has 11 years and $6.3 million left to pay on the $7.5 million revenue bond that was used to buy and develop the 399-acre Horizon South Industrial Park. The park now employs about 459. John Deere was at the site before the park was developed, while other tenants relocated there, many from Richmond County.

Burke County

In Burke County, officials are ready to do whatever it takes to attract industry. Fifty of the remaining 100 acres in the Waynesboro/Burke County Industrial Park off Mills Road have been dedicated for three speculative building projects. The county has donated the land to a company that will build the speculative buildings over the next five years, said Jerry Long, executive director of the Burke County Development Authority.

With unemployment hovering between 8 and 14 percent, the development authority is hoping the speculative buildings will attract business to the industrial park.

That's not the only building the county will have to market. There's still the 472,000-square-foot Sunlite Casual Furniture building, which has been vacant since the plant closed in July 1997, leaving 565 jobless.

The most recent industry to move into Burke County was Kwikset, a division of Black & Decker, a lock manufacturer that began operations in 1996 and now employs about 500.

Richmond County

Augusta/Richmond County has two industrial parks currently under development -- the Forward Augusta-Richmond County Industrial Park, 200 acres developed in the 1970s, and the mega-site, Augusta Corporate Park, which is now 1,500 acres of woodlands.

With Mattel soon closing, V.F. Playwear (formerly H.H. Cutler) is the only remaining industry in the Forward Augusta Park, though BP Amoco Polymers and Rutgers Organics Corp. are neighbors.

Augusta Corporate Park, however, is a blank canvas ready to be painted, and the Development Authority of Richmond County is moving forward with plans to build an entrance and install the infrastructure necessary to market the site, said Monty Osteen, chairman of the Development Authority of Richmond County.

The development authority decided to move forward with plans to build the entrance, though the Department of Transportation plans to widen Georgia Highway 56 next year.

"We're going to pave in about 900 feet, so that when we bring prospects to the park, they'll know they're at a park," Mr. Osteen said. "We need something sooner than later to market to show prospects. Right now it's 1,500 acres of woodlands."

The property was given to the development authority, a taxpayer-funded public entity, in 1993 by the Kimberly-Clark Co.

Mr. Osteen said the initial development of the park will cost about $1.2 million and should be completed by Spring.

Before the Asian financial crisis, the Augusta Corporate Park was to be the site of Hankook Synthetics' polyester fiber plant.

Aiken County

If you believe that industrial parks and speculative buildings attract industry, then Aiken and Edgefield counties could be your model. The 1,700-acre Sage Mill Park is now home to Bridgestone and Firestone, which employs 650, and four other smaller industries. Only 600 acres remains unused in the park.

"If you just look at Sage Mill three-and-a-half to four years ago, you've gone from zero to Bridgestone and Firestone and other large companies," said Fred Humes, director of the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership. "The key to any business is having what the customer wants and we are developing some very attractive parks."

REACHMelissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113,

or melhall@augustachronicle.com.