Economic Development News
Chamber Spec Building History Published: Thursday, August 17, 2017 By: Missy Bonnot, Director, Economic Development
In 2007, the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce took a hard look at the Economic Development efforts in the Cole County area and along with the City and County determined it was time to enhance the efforts of Business Attraction, Existing Business and Community Development. The city, county and chamber all increased the resources for economic development because we all knew to be competitive, we had to invest in Jefferson City’s future.
One of the tools the Chamber determined our community was in need of was more industrial buildings for potential companies. An existing building ready for buildout decreases the start-up time for a new business. We lacked inventory of existing buildings, our economy was strong and we wanted to continue to grow and capitalize on our strength.
The Chamber Board voted and agreed to construct a 50,000 square foot speculative building to entice a new or an existing company to expand in the Partnership Business Park on a 10.72 acre tract of land the Chamber had previously acquired for the purpose of locating industrial entities there.
This idea was not new to the Chamber. Over the past 50 years, several spec buildings had been built and industrial land had been purchased for this exact same reason - to encourage new jobs and investment for our area. JC Chamber 21st Century Land Investment, LLC, a subsidiary of the Chamber in which land holdings are held separately from day-to-day Chamber operations, has been in existence for decades. Since 2006, this entity has invested almost $4.5 million in cash expenditures in hard economic development costs for infrastructure including land purchases, spec building construction, roads, water and sewer improvements. These expenditures were for a dedicated purpose specifically for the industrial park to entice new business and industry. These funds are totally separate from and not co-mingled with the Chamber operating budget.
We knew speculative buildings were a financial risk and could be a long-term investment. This turned out to be true with the spec building. Shortly after constructing the building, the Chamber had several companies that were drawn to the building and very interested. Unfortunately, in 2008 the recession hit and we know what happened to business growth for a period of years. However, in spite of the recession, over the years the building proved to be a magnet for our community. We have had 47 different attraction projects and 13 existing companies all consider the spec building for their operation. In fact in 2013, Morris Packaging, based in Bloomington, IL contemplated purchasing the spec building. The building did not fit their specific needs and they bought land just east of the spec building and have constructed a 64,000 square foot facility and have 76 employees to date and are continuing to grow.
In addition, in 2016, an existing employer considered the spec building and decided to add on to their existing building and created dozens of new jobs and millions of dollars in capital investment.
When the spec building was built it did not come with a guarantee - if you build it they will come. What it did do was increase our chances for success. In addition to an existing building, a community needs to be able to provide utilities, roads and other infrastructure to serve the client who is looking to invest in our community. Additionally, economic development tax abatements, employee training programs and other incentives are considered the norm in the economic development world.
The partnerships between the city, county, education entities and utilities can all come together to create a strong and competitive incentive package. In turn, companies bring jobs with benefits and jobs bring security and growth in all areas of our community.