Tuesday, October 21, 2014

SEYMOUR: The train is coming; are we prepared?

By JEFF SEYMOUR, Franklin County Development Council | 11/18/2013

In case you’ve been out of the country for the past several months (or haven’t driven I-35 from Franklin County to the Kansas City metro during that same period), the Logistics Park Kansas City (also known as “The new BNSF intermodal facility”) in Edgerton has officially opened its gates.

First and foremost, a big congratulations goes out from Franklin County Development Council staff to the multiple entities involved in getting (and keeping) this project “on track” the past multiple years and, secondly, what an exciting time to be involved in economic development in North Central, Kansas!

In case you’ve been out of the country for the past several months (or haven’t driven I-35 from Franklin County to the Kansas City metro during that same period), the Logistics Park Kansas City (also known as “The new BNSF intermodal facility”) in Edgerton has officially opened its gates.

First and foremost, a big congratulations goes out from Franklin County Development Council staff to the multiple entities involved in getting (and keeping) this project “on track” the past multiple years and, secondly, what an exciting time to be involved in economic development in North Central, Kansas!

Because we’ve been asked multiple times what the impact of this project will be on Franklin County, let me give the short answer first: It depends on our preparation level.

The longer answer is that the latest approximation that development council staff has heard about this project’s impact is that it is expected to add an additional 60 million square feet of new industrial space to the Kansas City region.

For those of you running the numbers in your head, even a 10-percent total capture rate of that new industrial development in Franklin County would generate 6 million new square feet of new industrial space in Franklin County (that’s about four Walmart distribution centers if you’re looking for a scale). Add on to those figures any new homes that will be built in Franklin County and any retail and other commercial projects that take place because of enhanced activity in our region.

Bottom line, the new intermodal project can have a huge impact on Franklin County — it just depends on our level of preparation to fully take advantage of the opportunity.

Of the crucial elements to our success, having new industrial park land — a new industrial park with multiple, large, flexibly dividable parcels — is one of the most crucial elements to taking advantage of the potential growth.

In addition to questions we’ve been receiving lately about the intermodal facility, we’ve also been asked how the development council is doing with regard to attracting new investment to Franklin County.   

Good news first: To date in 2013, Franklin County Development Council staff has worked 48 new commercial or industrial project leads for placement in Franklin County.

Of those leads, 23 were for new or expanded manufacturing facilities, five have been for warehouse/manufacturing projects, four have been for some type of bio-science project (usually small scale start-up operations), one has been for the headquarters of a national non-profit organization, and 14 have been for some type of “other” project (mostly retail or office projects we’ve worked in partnership with Franklin County community partners including the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Ottawa Main Street and individual Franklin County communities).

Now the bad news: Of the above mentioned prospects we’ve worked, three currently are either marked down as a “success” or in the “pending” category (both “pending” projects falling into the previously described “other” category).

Why the small ratio of success? For one thing, that’s the nature of the economic development business. For every 10 leads for new business you may work, a 10-percent success ratio might be a very good thing.

Secondly, as discussed for several years in Franklin County, one of the primary constraints for new businesses looking at starting a new project in our area is the lack of available shovel-ready industrial property and currently available industrial buildings in the county.

Tagging into the conversation about the impact of the new intermodal facility (and you’re probably seeing a consistent theme in this message), the best avenue for Franklin County to take advantage of new business leads (of any type) is to have a place to locate these new projects (a la, at a minimum large shovel-ready parcels where they can locate).

Jeff Seymour is executive director for the Franklin County Development Council. Email him at jeff@ThinkFranklinCo.org or call (785) 242-1000.

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