Archive for Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home for new business park ID’d as need

August 20, 2009

As a first step to attracting new industries, the city of De Soto should conduct an engineering study to identify the site of a new business park.

The suggestion came form study session for an update of the city’s targeted industry study the De Soto Economic Development Council sponsored Saturday morning at De Soto City Hall. The meeting was attended by members of that organization, De Soto Mayor David Anderson, City Council members Betty Cannon and Rick Walker, De Soto Chamber of Commerce members and city residents.

The need for an industrial park sprang for a question Irv Jensen, an Iowa economic development consultant who facilitated the discussion, had in response to recruiting logistical support or corporate back offices operations. Those were targeted industries identified in the city’s last targeted industry effort in 2003.

Those types of business were typically looking for pad-ready sites, if not already constructed buildings, Jensen said.

The second option doesn’t exist in De Soto and there is very little available pad-ready ground for development.

The only business, commercial or industrial park in De Soto is the K-Ten Commerce Park on Commerce Drive just north of Kansas Highway 10. The park is nearly full and its ownership is often questioned — as happened again at the workshop — about its land pricing structure.

Jensen said the city shouldn’t allow the lack of development sites tp stop it from taking advantage of opportunities likely to be available when the recession ends.

“Typically, cities have two choices when an owner isn’t playing ball,” he said. “Either you buy them out or develop a second option.

“What you can’t afford to do is do nothing.”

The city could probably secure grant money for the engineering study for a site of a new business park, Jensen said.

Identifying a site was an important part of “painting a picture” when recruiting, Jensen said. Prospects have many opportunities and are more likely to listen to cities able to articulate a product, he said.

Jensen said the industries identified in the last targeted industry study conformed well with the state and metropolitan economic development targets. Those industries were:

• Life sciences

• Distribution and packaging centers/logistical support or wholesale centers

• Satellite and administrative centers

Two emerging industries it was suggested be added to the updated list were green industries and natural agricultural products.

Jensen suggested those be further refined and the city look for opportunities that could fit in several of its defined targets, for example bio-science applications of natural agricultural products.

Economic development recruitment is either opportunistic or proactive, Jensen said. Opportunistic was when companies came to cities with proposals, while proactive is searching out companies that fit with what the community can offer and its vision, he said.

The key to successful proactive development is building relationships, Jensen said. De Soto had a great opportunity to do that in the biosciences because of the K-State Natural Food Safety and Security Institute and Kansas Bioscience Authority are both in Olathe and the other recent life-science initiatives in the life sciences in the metropolitan area, K-10 corridor and in the state, he said.

“Ideally, you need to have five companies you could identify that would be a fit and start building relationships,” he said. “Frankly, one of the things you want to be able to say is, ‘We have on the drawing board to develop a home that fits your business.’”

But that conversation depended on having at least a pad site, Jensen said. He proposed the city’s first step would be to name a small task force to identify possible partners in the city’s economic development efforts and articulate a vision for future business development — part of that would be an engineering study to identify a site for a new business park.

Jensen said he would write a report from the discussion, which he would present to the City Council next month.

Chamber and EDC director Sara Ritter said the meeting was very productive and she looked forward to the final report.

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