AREA INDUSTRIAL PARKS: Environmentally-friendly, economically-necessary

TRAVERSE CITY – If it seems like industrial parks are popping up all over, they are. But the supply is still less than the demand.

“Over the next 10 years we will need to develop an additional 300 acres of environmentally-friendly, light industrial park space to meet the demands for industrial expansion,” according to Charles Blankenship, director of Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation (TBEDC).

To make his point, he added that all the area industrial park space developed over the past 10 years has been sold out.

This is your typical good-news, bad-news story. We live in an area abundant with waterways and terrain. But economically speaking, these wonders of nature contribute to disjointed property.

While the natural beauty attracts and promotes tourism, tourism alone cannot support the growing needs of a growing community–especially with the El NiƱo seasons we’ve experienced. Industry is the grease that keeps the squeaky wheel moving.

When the first industrial park was developed on Park Drive in Garfield Township nearly 40 years ago, the overall strategy was to “increase jobs, income, and tax base while relocating industry off the bay-front properties,” explained Blankenship.

Today there is much more concern for the environment and for the protection and preservation of wildlife in their natural habitat. TBEDC assures us that its policy in assisting with the development of industrial parks is to keep them environmentally-friendly.

Accordingly, TBEDC policy states that potential industrial park sites “must be zoned for light industry; be hooked to sewage treatment system; have on-site drainage to prevent erosion, underground utility lines, landscape requirements, signage requirements, set back and architectural standards, and maintain as many existing trees as possible.” They must also have land conservancy or similar nature areas that are accessible by pathways and meet outside storage standards.”

Established parks in the area that have already sold out include:

* Traversefield-80 acres in Garfield Township, developed by the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township. It offers all utilities, and can be used for manufacturing, professional office, research and development, and distribution.

* Garfield-Heidbreder Park-80 acres in Garfield Township developed by the Traverse City Area Industrial Fund. It offers all utilities and can be used for industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution or research center purposes.

* Grand Traverse Commerce Center-80 acres located in Garfield Township, developed by Northern Star Development Corporation. All utilities are available and uses encompass industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, research and development, and commercial.

Industrial parks are promoted through regional, state, national and international marketing, Blankenship explained.

“We look for sites outside the urban core to develop ‘village centers’ to provide jobs and tax base where people live and to reduce commuting traffic,” he said.

The development of an industrial park entails a lot of paperwork and takes about two years to complete before actual construction can begin. The key, according to local Realtor Jim Schmuckal, is to anticipate each stage and stay ahead of the need.

“The governmental agencies have been very cooperative,” Schmuckal said. “An industrial park is intended to be a planned business district.”

Schmuckal is currently marketing Meadowland Industrial Park in East Bay Township. Still under construction, it spans 20 acres and 14 parcels and is being developed by Meadowland Properties. Intended uses are industrial and manufacturing. The park is surrounded by wetlands that will remain undisturbed. Completion is expected by mid- to late-spring.

Schmuckal is also marketing another Meadowland Properties development in Blair Township. This 40-lot park will combine commercial with industrial. Completion is expected by mid-summer. Municipal water will be available, but not sewers.

Others parks with lots to sell include:

* Peninsula Business Park East-Developed by R.G. Reffitt Inc., this 120-acre park in East Bay Township includes 65 buildable acres and all utilities. (The park was originally 135 acres until some acreage was donated to the Grand Traverse Conservancy.) Uses are intended for professional offices, manufacturing, research and development, and building construction services.

* Peninsula Business Park South-Also developed by R.G. Reffitt, it has 10 acres, with one buildable lot and all utilities. It targets manufacturing, public utilities, storage facilities, freight terminals, contractors, and research and design.

* West 72 Commerce Park-A brand new development in Long Lake Township, it has seven lots and offers power, but not sewer or water. It will be used for commercial or light industrial purposes.

* Grand Traverse Hills in Fife Lake-Developed by brothers Jeff and Jim Hayes of Hayes Manufacturing, this park has approximately 10 to 12 parcels. They are working with TBEDC to attract clean, light industry. The park, located at 6875 U.S. 131, offers sewers and well water.

Meanwhile, Kalkaska’s Industrial Park II is picking up steam toward approval. Village officials submitted applications in February after meeting personally with representatives from both state and federal agencies.

Early indications are that project funding looks favorable. Mel Hill, village manager, says the focus for this park is on manufacturing and R&D. Sewer, water and gas will be available for an anticipated 10 parcels. Construction is slated for late summer or fall. BIZNEWS