Originally created 12/03/99

Coke could be new tenant in industrial park



AIKEN -- If all goes as planned, the city of Aiken will close its first land sale in Ventures Industrial Park by March.

Coca-Cola Consolidated has been in negotiations for more than a year to buy a 15-acre tract in the industrial park, City Manager Roger LeDuc said Thursday.

City council approved the sale at its last meeting, and final approval is expected Dec. 13.

No land has been sold in Ventures Park -- a 185-acre industrial park designed for light- to medium-size manufacturers -- partly because there hasn't been enough demand, Mr. LeDuc said.

When the park opened just south of Aiken Municipal Airport in 1997, Sage Mill, a 1,100-acre park located on Interstate 20 near Graniteville, was attracting all the industries, he said. SKF USA, a Swedish company that produces automobile parts and employs about 275 people, and Bridgestone/Firestone, a tire manufacturer, have moved into that park within the past two years.

"It was a supply-and-demand thing," Mr. LeDuc said. "We also haven't had the infrastructure to make Ventures Park viable."

Mr. LeDuc said the city needs $750,000 to complete the park's roads, water, sewer and storm drainage, which it hopes to do within a year.

A $225,000 land sale to Coca-Cola would help get Ventures Park off the ground, he said.

"It's always good to have the first project out and development started," Mr. LeDuc said.

Coca-Cola Consolidated is expected to buy the land for $10,000 per acre, plus $5,000 per acre for development of a stormwater retention pond.

Mr. Leduc, who traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to meet with Coca-Cola officials a couple of months ago, said he believes their plans meet city officials' expectations for development in the park.

He said the company plans to relocate its Coca-Cola Bottling Co. from York Street to the new park.

Although he doesn't think many jobs will be created immediately, he said the land will allow room for future expansion. Construction on the new bottling company is expected to be completed in a year, Mr. LeDuc said.

Coca-Cola Facilities Director Charlie Weathers said Thursday it would be premature for him to comment on the land sale.

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.