City, county discuss industrial park work

First Posted: 9/3/2009

Mount Airy and Surry County officials, apparently energized by the prospect of a new tenant for Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park, discussed plans Thursday for further development of that facility.
The improvements outlined during a meeting of the City-County Liaison Committee would total more than $1 million, conservatively, but officials of the group that meets periodically to discuss joint projects agree that the timing could be right. Thats because the recession and competition for work are allowing lower costs for construction, engineering and other services that wont be possible when the economy improves.
Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park is located in the McKinney Road area near Interstate 74, in the southwestern portion of Mount Airy. Four businesses already have located in the facility that has more than 300 acres zoned for commercial and industrial development, with another known only as Project Brown possibly opening a facility there in the near future which would hire 45 people.
Don Brookshire, Mount Airys city manager, told committee members that an extension of water and services is needed to the industrial park to make remaining property there usable, along with grading. The cost of the utility extension would be more than $800,000, according to figures presented Thursday, with estimates for the grading ranging from about $200,000 to $800,000.
The county and city would share those expenses.
Another issue regarding the park relates to new state guidelines that affect properties marketed by the N.C. Department of Commerce. Costly new engineering studies, topographical maps, soil-borings and other updated information could be required if the local industrial park is to maintains its certification in the state marketing program at the end of this year.
While referring to the state changes as an expensive new use of our money, Brookshire agreed that the certification is important because industrial prospects looking to build new plants might seek only sites that are certified.
Thats really what this gets down to, is a marketing tool, said Todd Tucker, the president of the Surry Economic Development Partnership (EDP), who was present at Thursdays meeting.
Based on Thursdays discussion, there are only about two parcels left in Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park that are ripe for development, one of about 39 acres and the other of 32 acres. Those are the last two big sites, said Martin Collins, Mount Airys director of community development.
While there is other land there, it is heavily sloped, located in a floodplain or has been infiltrated by power and other lines.
In response to a question from Craig Hunter, chairman of the county commissioners, the group was told that about 100 acres remain vacant at another facility, Westwood Industrial Park. However, some of that property is close to residential neighborhoods, and the park lacks the access to Interstate 74 that Piedmont Triad West possesses.
Hunter, who works as a developer, said he believes the city and county should focus on getting one big site ready for a prospective industry, citing a trend in which new companies are seeking shovel-ready locations.
Thats sort of a norm now graded sites and free land, the county official said.
Were one site away from not accommodating a big industry, Hunter said in reference to property now available locally for such a project.
In focusing on the Piedmont Triad park acreage that is most attractive from a recruitment standpoint, the two localities would avoid costs associated with that land which is unsuitable for development. That would help in maintaining the state certification, since no money would be spent on engineering and other studies for remaining property.
You can certify it on individual sites, said Tucker. In fact, that might make more sense for us, he added, since the park contains acreage that is not usable.
Brookshire suggested that officials work to get a site ready, while also assembling information needed to maintain the state certification. Tucker was instructed Thursday to investigate previous studies prepared for park property in 2002 to determine how much of the information can be re-used, and what new data could be required to meet the revised certification rules.
Tucker said that one goal of the new guidelines established by officials in Raleigh involves separating land that is buildable from that which is not because of terrain or other issues. They dont want you marketing a 100-acre site if only 50 percent of that is usable, the economic-development official explained.
Meanwhile, both city and county leaders said that while they have no money said aside now for that purpose, they each would try to find their roughly $400,000 share of the funds needed to supply water and sewer services to the targeted property.
From Mount Airys standpoint, money in a retained earnings or fund balance portion of the citys water and sewer fund could be used for the work if the Board of Commissioners approves, Brookshire said. I think if the boards willing to pull it out, its there.
At the conclusion of Thursdays City-County Liaison Committee, the group that includes commissioners from both entities met behind closed doors for about 30 minutes to discuss a related property matter.
After returning to open session, Brookshire announced that a consensus had been reached whereby members of the full respective boards will be asked to consider a couple of opportunities that could lead to an expansion of Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park.
No other details were released.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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