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Industrial park slated for Kearney

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

East Kearney Industrial LLC closed Jan. 15 on the purchase of 108 acres it proposes to develop as an industrial park in northeast Springfield.

Tom Rankin, an investor in East Kearney Industrial and president of Rankin & Co. LLC, said the property will be targeted at distribution centers, not necessarily manufacturing sites.

"The buzzword now is logistical parks," Rankin said. "I think this is the area where industrial growth is going to continue to take place."

The property was purchased from the Edmondson family, Rankin said.

In addition to the 108 acres purchased, Rankin said he hopes to convince the owners of about 160 adjacent acres to develop the land together. One reason is to provide more leverage with the city to encourage utility expansion to the property.

"Nobody's been pushing the city," Rankin said. "It's just been sitting there." He said sewer service will have to be brought from the north side of Interstate 44.

"That's going to be a tough nut. It's one of the reasons the property hasn't developed. They're probably going to have to bore under 44 to get sewer service to that parcel," said Karl Plumpe, associate general manager of City Utilities. Utility services are "what makes some property worth $1,000 an acre and some worth $100,000 an acre."

"The city has made it known they want people to step forward" with just such developments, Rankin said. "We're willing to meet them halfway and work in conjunction with the city to cooperate in some fashion."

"It has to be a good business decision for the utility," to help with infrastructure, Plumpe said.

In addition to sewer service, expansion of the Enterprise Zone to include the property and construction of already-planned street improvements is sought by Rankin. He said discussions with city officials are under way. The land is zoned general manufacturing and will not require a change, he said.

Earl Newman, of George Butler & Associates, is at work planning the development, Rankin said.

The planning and construction required mean lots for the development won't be on sale immediately.

"It's going to be some time on this," Rankin said.

The development comes as the Partnership Industrial Center, 360 acres located less than a mile east of the Rankin group's property, is filling up, and its leadership is looking to future expansion.

Plumpe, who works closely on the Partnership Industrial Center through the Springfield Business and Development Corporation, said the new park would be a complement to the industrial center.

"A logistics-type park is always an enhancement," Plumpe said. "Once you make that product, you do need finished-product storage. To be able to say (to prospective companies) not just, you have to look someplace else, but, you can look right over here."

The Partnership Industrial Center is available only to manufacturing or industrial operations.

"Fry-Wagner Moving & Storage came to (the industrial center) first," Plumpe said. The company subsequently built on land outside the industrial center.

"We're not trying to be exclusive, we're trying to fulfill the mission of the park," said Ken Carter, who ended his term as president of the Partnership Industrial Center Administrative Council Jan. 12. "We've welcomed having a neighbor like that."

Carter said the availability of such "backfill operations" as distribution centers actually helps attract industrial operations.

Carter said the decision concerning the expansion of the Partnership Industrial Center will include the advice of a consultant. The 3-year-old center is projected to be filled, ahead of projections, in the next three years, Plumpe said.

A study may conclude that the center's success has absorbed all the industrial sites that Springfield might expect to attract, or that its rapid build-out indicates further opportunities that will continue, Carter said. "I think it's the latter."

As the center's leadership considers expansion, Carter said, it will invite private investors to the project developed by the city, City Utilities and the Springfield Business and Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Private money doesn't really chase bad investments," Carter said, on the reasoning behind including private investors.

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