Members of the Knox County Development Corp. on Friday took another step toward making a home for smaller businesses in the U.S. 41 Industrial Park.
KCDC officials months ago put plans in motion to designate about 50 acres in the park to be used specifically to attract smaller businesses, and members of the site development committee presented the final design to the board of directors on Friday.
The plan — created with help from Plainfield's Banning Engineering as well as county surveyor Dick Vermillion and Colt Michaels, executive director of the Area Plan Commission — calls for designating 53 acres between Futaba Indiana of America and Elkhorn Road into more than a dozen 2- and 3-acre tracts that KCDC officials believe will be attractive to local business startups looking to expand and still others wanting to relocate from neighboring Illinois.
In fact, the entire plan came from such demands, according to KCDC president Kent Utt.
“We've got one (business) already really anxious to get started,” he told KCDC members.
Phil Rath, a KCDC board member and Vincennes University's vice-president of finance and governmental affairs, expressed concern, however, over pigeonholing the organization. He didn't want to see a day where the KCDC couldn't meet a large industrial request, say a business the size of FIA or even Farbest Foods Inc.
Knox County, he argued, has to compete with surrounding counties that have Interstate 69 running through them. Pike County, for instance, has several hundred acres ready to go should big business come calling.
Rath said he wants the same for Knox County, with at least 200 developable acres available for sale at any given time.
But Kirk Bouchie, who presented the concept on behalf of the site development committee, said the covenants would only allow for the sale of smaller tracts, not prohibit the sale of larger ones altogether in those 53 acres.
“We want to do it in such a way that we remain flexible,” Bouchie told the group gathered at VU's Robert E. Green Activities Center.
The existing covenants for the industrial park prohibit the sale of any tract of less than 9.5 acres in size, and that will remain in place for the other 100 acres the KCDC has at its disposal.
And if the development of a mini park is in any way profitable, it could mean dollars for future growth.
“As we build that out, we could see success,” Utt said, “and need more as a result.”
The mini park concept calls for the construction of a road that would disperse traffic through the first six potential lots, although KCDC members didn't approve the expenditure of any money just yet.
That, Bouchie said, would come later.
“And we won't be spending a lot on infrastructure anyway,” Bouche said. “At least not on the front end. That leaves flexibility to accommodate (businesses) both large and small.
“We could end up with just a couple (small) lots. Or we could end up with six. If the demand is there, we could build out the entire mini park.”
Utt said he's also spoken with adjoining landowners, and all of them are willing and even eager to see more businesses locate in the industrial park, regardless of their size.
KCDC chairman Heath Klein, the local developer working to bring new businesses to the site of the old Kmart property on the city's northeast side, also there is a “huge demand” for businesses looking for two or three acres.
“We have a lack of it in our community,” he said. “You can't find two acres anywhere to put a nice building on.”
And the reason, Klein said, is that it's just not often profitable to do so.
“But we're not here to make a lot of money,” Utt added. “We're here to create jobs and (bolster) our community.”
KCDC members first have to have their concept approved by the APC's plat committee. The mini park plan will then go before the full APC at its June meeting.