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City working to renew, expand enterprise zone

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

An industrial park in northeast Springfield could benefit from the expansion of the Springfield Enterprise Zone to include its 108 acres.

The Enterprise Zone Program, administered through the state Department of Economic Development, provides state tax-credit incentives for adding and expanding businesses within the zone. The program also includes tax credits for businesses in the zone whose employees live within an enterprise zone. The zone in Springfield includes the center city area and manufacturing areas such as the Partnership Industrial Park and the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport area.

In 1999, Springfield will have to renew its enterprise zone, said David Knight, city economic development coordinator.

March 9, City Council gave Knight the OK to re-apply for the program. The current program will expire May 11, 1999, Knight said.

In the application to the state, the zone would be expanded to include about 600 acres in the northeast area of the city, the area where East Kearney Industrial LLC plans to build its industrial park.

Tom Rankin, an investor in East Kearney Industrial and president of Rankin & Co., said the inclusion would be a benefit to him and other potential tenants. The group plans to develop the industrial park as a site for logistics centers, Rankin said.

"We're very grateful to be included in the proposal," Rankin said.

East Kearney Industrial is still working with the city to try to get sewer services to the tract of land. Over the next six months, the group will develop its plans for the center, but attracting tenants is difficult without sewer services in the area, Rankin said.

Another 102-acre tract of land, owned by the Springfield business Charter Express, will also be included in the enterprise zone expansion. Charter Express president Ron Whitworth said the company has owned the land since the early 1970s and has no plans right now for developing the land.

Charter Express is a full truckload, over-the-road trucking firm chartered in 1972. Whitworth's father, Floyd Whitworth, has been in trucking since 1947, Whitworth said.

"Anyone who's interested in developing a piece of property will be interested in getting the appropriate services: sewer, electrical, etc. We haven't been in any hurry to develop the land, but we are open to suggestions as to its application," Whitworth said.

Plans to extend sewer service to the area were made in 1994 as part of the city's strategic plan, but have not been implemented, Knight said. In order to get started on actual construction of the sewer system, Knight said, he had to consult the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and make sure "we're complying with their goals and objectives."

Because there are no industrial parks in the area dedicated to logistics warehousing and shipping partners in East Kearney Industrial decided to make that the park's focus, Rankin said.

The partnership is not yet marketing the park to any specific segment, but is hoping to garner interest from all types of companies who have need of logistic centers.

The park will probably be divided into five- or 10-acre parcels, Rankin said.

Prime Inc. and its holdings in the area are also included in the expanded enterprise zone, but that expansion occurred several months ago, when the company asked the city for inclusion in the zone to receive the zone's benefits for its expansion.

Phase I of Prime's expansion, the Plaza, a building that has inspection and fueling lanes for trucks, will open by the end of March, said Patricia Hicks, tax manager for Prime. Phase II, which will result in the majority of jobs the expansion will create, begins in April, Hicks said. The expansion will create 250 in-house jobs and around 1,000 new driver positions, Hicks said.

"The expansion of the enterprise zone gave us the ability to invest more in our projects," Hicks said.

Rankin also said that the expansion of the zone to include his development would be "of great benefit to us."

In order to complete the application for renewal of the enterprise zone in Springfield, Knight will now have to submit the application to the state. City officials will then testify before the Missouri Department of Economic Development, and the application will ultimately be reviewed after the legislative session ends by a joint legislative committee, Knight said.

Knight said the city wanted to get its application in now so it could be considered early for renewal. The city will probably be notified of the renewal in late summer at the earliest.

For the East Kearney Industrial development, the main consideration now is sewer services, although some circulation issues will also need to be considered, Knight said.

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