By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer Sunday, July 12, 2009
With fewer industries to woo in the midst of a recession, Orangeburg County officials are focusing on the strongest sectors and getting industrial parks ready for the moment when things start moving again.
“Automotive is not moving right now,” Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said. “So what we are targeting now (are) distribution, advanced metals, plastics, construction materials. We are targeting sectors of the economy that are doing well.
“I feel like we have hit bottom.”
Robinson said the county is continuing to prepare property for industries in anticipation of an economic uptick, although the down economy has made obtaining funding for industrial parks more challenging.
“Resources are strapped,” he said. “Everybody is doing everything they can to cut costs. We have to be realistic because there are needed services that are going unfunded. We are being very cost-conscious.”
Officials with Jafza Americas say the global economic downturn has brought unforeseen but not insurmountable challenges.
“Many of our existing clients are re- assessing their expansion plans,” Jafza spokeswoman Tara Robertson said. “This also affects U.S. companies that want to explore globally. Our project is market-driven, therefore, things may appear slow now, but we hope to be ready for the upturn.”
Robertson said an early 2010 groundbreaking — initially set for October 2009 — is still targeted with the eventual build-up based on market forces. The first tenants in the park are expected by early 2011.
“We have maintained good relationships with many reputable financial institutions that are ready to help us on a project-specific basis,” Robertson said.
Jafza first announced in September 2007 it intended to make a $600 million to $700 million investment near Santee. Plans call for a 1,322-acre logistics, manufacturing and distribution park that will include light manufacturing, light industrial space, a public intermodal facility, a truck plaza, warehousing and mixed-use offices and commercial uses.
In light of the economic downturn, Jafza officials have publicly said they will focus on the development of the Santee site, and put on hold potential projects in Virginia, Ohio and Texas.
In the meantime, Robertson says the company is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its environmental permitting process.
“This is a very detailed and tedious process,” Robertson said. “We feel confident we will have the permit this fall.”
Robertson says Jafza is also in the process of looking at engineering firms to help with the project design. The company expects a short list of firms to be announced in the near future.
Robertson said Jafza is also actively working with its sister company, Gazeley UK Limited, to market the site.
“We are soft-launching our marketing efforts until we get a permit in hand and learn more about the timeline of when U.S. 301 will be on line,” Robertson said. “We do have plots that are ready for build today and we are focusing our efforts on those plots.”
Robertson said the company is talking to several national and international companies, though she said it would be premature to release the names of the companies.
Another issue related to the project is the proposed upgrade of the U.S. 301/Interstate 95 interchange.
Robinson said a meeting was held recently with the S.C. Department of Transportation Highway Commission as well as the local legislative delegation to discuss funding opportunities, design plans, possible modifications and future public hearings.
“We are also working on the access roads with the county and with Jafza,” Robinson said. “I am not going to speculate on the design of the roads. We have a lot of work ahead of us as far as the best route and the best design.”
The total cost of the interchange project is estimated at $25 million. The county is also working to secure funds to extend U.S. Highway 301 to S.C. Highway 6, a project that could cost upward of $35 million.
About $15 million has been secured for the road improvements from a variety of federal, state and local sources, Robinson said.
n Orangeburg County
Robinson said the county is currently in the process of selling about 5 acres in the Orangeburg County Industrial Park on Rowesville Road. The 5 acres are adjacent to Mars Pet Care.
There are currently talks with a Charleston developer to build a 50,000-square-foot speculative building on the site.
“It is a solid sign for the economy and for us that someone is willing to come in and build a speculative building,” he said. Specifics on the talks were not disclosed.
Robinson said the property has access to rail and interstate within 6 miles.
Also, the county is working with the city to develop about 80 acres adjacent to the Orangeburg Municipal Airport runway, Robinson said.
The development would require the creation of another road to connect current roads to the property. The site would be rail-accessible since the county has brought in rail spurs to Ecka Granules and ACO Distribution. The rail spurs were funded through grants and the private sector.
“We would like to target aviation-related projects,” Robinson said.
Industrial Park Phase II/
The second, 220-acre phase of the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park is complete and ready for tenants, Robinson said. The road work, infrastructure and lighting is complete.
“We have created a campus format,” Robinson said. “The idea is to really clean it up and make it nice.”
Columbia-based development company The Miller-Valentine Group broke ground in January 2008 on a $5 million, 150,000-square-foot speculative building at the park.
Robinson says the building has been shown both nationally and internationally over the past year.
The building, which is expandable to 300,000 square feet, is situated on about 21 acres across the street from Allied Air and next door to H.T. Hackney.
“This is a drawing card for Orangeburg,” Robinson said, noting it has curb appeal as well as being adaptable to office and other possibilities. The building can also be divided for several tenants.
Robinson said he also expects a new tenant to move into the park adjacent to elevator guide rail manufacturer Monteferro.
He declined comment on project specifics.
n ‘A difficult year’
World Trade City Orangeburg LLC announced in February 2008 its plans to develop land near Bowman and Interstate 26, at Exit 159, into a four-phase business center that eventually could draw $1 billion in investment and bring 1,000 jobs over a 10- to 15-year period.
A mixed-use logistics center, which will combine office and exhibition space with warehousing and distribution facilities, is planned.
The first phase of the four-phase project is projected to cover 1,200 acres.
The company’s chief executive officer, Jimmie Gianoukos, said discussions have been held with prospective investors interested in the project though a large-scale commitment has been put on hold.
“The good thing about it I think is that it will definitely come to fruition when our time comes,” Gianoukos said. “It is not our time nor too many other people’s time. I would say we are still alive and well. I spend time with it every week. We are on everyone’s radar in the state.
“It is the matter of timing now with the economy.”
Gianoukos said the property has been shown to potential investors within the past few weeks.
“We are not dead and gone,” he said. “We are far from that right now.”
Gianoukos said hopes are the project will come out of the ground by the end of 2010 or early 2011.
n John W. Matthews Jr.
This park, named after Bowman Sen. John Matthews, is situated on about 542 acres at the intersection of U.S. Highways 301 and 176.
The land is currently being cleared with a $500,000 road already paved through the property.
Robinson said the park has everything except a wastewater system — at this time — and will have water tied in through the fall through the Lake Marion Regional Water Authority project.
The permitting is in place to construct a gravity-fed wastewater system and a million-gallon water facility. The projects could begin in the near future. The first phase of the water project will cost between $3 million and $7 million.
Designing and landscaping plans are under way at the park.
“We cannot go to construction without adequate water and sewer,” Robinson said.
About $1 million from capital project sales tax money will be spent on water and wastewater lines from the town of Bowman along S.C. Highway 210 to Interstate 95, Exit 165.
Additional money from the penny tax also will go toward tying in water lines to the industrial park.
n Western Orangeburg
County Industrial Park
Additional due diligence is ongoing, including surveys and environmental studies.
When asked about a construction timeline, Robinson replied, “I don’t want to speculate. It is in the very preliminary stages. We will need additional funding to create the needed improvements.”
Robinson said it may be 2012 before there is any significant activity.
In August 2008, county economic development officials purchased about 230 acres of property on S.C. Highway 389 and U.S. 321 and near S.C. Highway 4 that will be developed into a logistics and manufacturing park. The cost was about $2,500 to $3,500 per acre.
The county has about 100 acres under option.
Robinson said county officials are still working with about 24 landowners to purchase land for the industrial park.
The remaining owners hold parcels ranging in size from 1 acre to 70 acres.
“We have to design the park based on what we can obtain,” Robinson said. “We are not going to condemn property. If we cannot secure the needed property, all that does is make that park less likely to succeed.”
n County prepares new
park to lure industry
The county has started clearing land for a new industrial park near the intersection of U.S. 601 and Interstate 26.
The 95-acre Carolina International Park, situated on Industrial Boulevard, will have about a quarter of a mile of interstate frontage, as well as Norfolk Southern rail, water, sewer, gas and electricity.
“It is ready for somebody to come in,” Robinson said. “We have shown it a bunch.”
“We could literally deliver rail off the main spur,” Robinson said. “It is turnkey.”
The property is situated behind Mayer Industries and Zeus Industrial Products.
A road has been cut into the property so it can be shown to prospective buyers.
T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 803-533-5551. Discuss this and other stories online at TheTandD.com