Are We Just Throwing Darts?

editorial-logo3The Industrial Development Board met last week and there is a new composition on the Board. For several years, this Board has struggled to find its feet, in regard to property acquisition in the County, and they have been waylaid by one thing after another. In their search for usable, appropriate land they have gone back and forth about everything from location within the County to funding. In their defense, they answer to a County Commission that is in no way united in their vision for Jefferson County and that only adds another tricky avenue to navigate in their quest. Last spring, they shelved their search during the megasite proposal, abandoning their search for property suitable for a business park. Now it appears that they are, again, changing directions and are considering purchasing existing buildings within Jefferson County. I understand the need for marketable land that is County owned. Wagley, the Director of EDOC for Jefferson County, is already fighting an economy that is slow to rebound and County owned land would give him the latitude to negotiate benefits to attract industry that he does not have with privately owned property. That being said, Wagley does currently market all commercial property that is available in the County, privately owned or not. It just does not make sense to me for the County to purchase property that has sat empty for a long period of time. I really think that if it could attract industry, Wagley would already be filling the buildings. These privately owned properties won’t bring anything new to the table. Sure, if the County owns the property then purchase points can be negotiated. Private owners may not be willing to negotiate price or other points to attract industry, however, some of these buildings are in serious need of repair and the industry would have to fit the building instead of the property being built to suit the industry. Frankly, there just doesn’t seem to be much of an upside to purchasing vacant, privately owned buildings that the current owners, nor Wagley or his predecessor Maul, can successfully market. These buildings are already on the tax rolls for the County and they are sitting vacant because they do not meet the needs of those businesses that might be relocating to Jefferson County. Otherwise, they would not be sitting vacant and deteriorating. It feels like the Industrial Development Board is grasping at straws and I don’t believe that they are to the desperation point, yet. We need to move forward as a County and this move is lateral at best. Truthfully, the IDB needs to determine the intentions of Norfolk Southern, regarding the Intermodal. They need information and they need to decide the type of industry that they are marketing to before making any purchase. What is missing is a game plan and until one is created we will continue to chase our tail. Purchasing property is not an impulse buy and the buildings in question are already being marketed by Wagley. Perhaps they are just throwing darts and hoping one will stick. Whatever the case, if the target is to bring something new and marketable to the table then this one seriously misses the mark.

Source: K. Depew, News Director