Ten New Supersites in the South
Editor's Note: We have taken a few of the Top 10s from Southern Business & Development magazine's (the owner and operator of www.SouthernAutoCorridor.com) annual Ten Top 10s issue, which is published at the end of each winter quarter. These top 10s that we have chosen to publish here may apply to companies looking to gain a foothold in the Southern Automotive Corridor. You can read all ten top 10s by going to www.SB-D.com or by subscribing to Southern Business & Development. Again, the Ten Top 10s edition is an annual issue.
By Mike Randle
In the early 1990s, when the prospects of several new automotive and semiconductor plants were making Southern developer's tongues wag, there was very little depth in the region's supersite inventory. The real estate and financial institution problems of the late 1980s, combined with the recession of the early 1990s meant that real estate development was, in a word, subdued. That included prepared large sites in the South as well as speculative buildings.
In 1995 we published a story that included a joke directed to economic developers on the meager building inventory that was present in the South back then. It went like this: "A new industrial prospect that plans to hire 500 workers has an urgent request for an available building and all you have to offer is the old nativity scene that stood out front of the Winn Dixie last Christmas." For you folks who are not familiar with the deep South, Winn Dixie is a Jacksonville, Fla.-based grocer.
Now it's 2006 and available buildings aren't a problem for most markets and states. The same is true for supersites, or properties that feature great infrastructure for large users such as automakers. In fact, there hasn't been a larger inventory of supersites in Southern economic development history than there is today. And we're not talking greenfield sites here. We're talking about certified sites that have millions already invested in them in the form of infrastructure such as rail, roads and utilities.
The reason so many large tracts have been developed in the South over the last few years centers mostly on the prospects of landing automakers. Sure, other users of large sites are out there, including the steel, pharmaceutical, aerospace, chemical and oil and gas sectors. But landing a foreign automaker is like landing a 2,000-pound blue marlin. It's intimidating, it's costly, it's time consuming and it's just plain hard. But unless you use the right lure it's impossible to make the catch. That's what supersites are; they are the lure and the investment in them simply means that the fishing has seriously commenced.
Southern Business & Development has tried to keep you up to date on available supersites in the South for almost 15 years now. In fact, we've written and profiled over 100 of them since 1992 (go to archives on www.sb-d.com). But with each year comes more sites of 1,000 acres or more. Here, we profile 10 new ones that we haven't written about.
Metro Mega Site
There are at least four outstanding supersites located within metro Memphis or just outside of it. Does that tell you something? It tells us a big deal will occur at one of those sites in the next two or three years or the number of sites in metro Memphis wouldn't keep multiplying.
The Tunica site, situated at the northern end of the Mississippi Delta in the state of Mississippi, but just 30 minutes south of Memphis, is as flat of a site as you will ever find. You might find a flatter site in California's Death Valley, but we doubt it.
The site features 2,221 contiguous acres and is bordered by two four-lane highways. The site is located near Interstate 40 and 55, as well as the proposed Interstate 69.
* Located in the Memphis metro in an attainment county
* Various studies are available for review including engineering, phase one environmental, topographic, wetland, archeological and hydrological
* Located in an area that enjoys some of the lowest property tax rates in the South
* The Canadian National Mainline Railroad serves the site
* Located near Interstates
* Site located about 40 minutes from Memphis International Airport and the FedEx hub
* All utilities adjacent to site
Shoal River Ranch
This is the site in Northwest Florida that Kia looked at in the spring and summer of 2005. The recruitment of Kia to the Florida panhandle was a joint recruiting effort made by the states of Alabama and Florida. Most of Hyundai's supplier base is located south of Birmingham, however, the bulk of that is located south of Montgomery all the way to the Florida line.
The incredibly large Crestview site made sense because of its proximity to Korean suppliers in Alabama. And it also made sense that both states work on the project together, since Alabama had the suppliers and Florida had no automakers.
The Shoal River Ranch is an impressive patch of land, located in the Florida Panhandle near Crestview, Fla., in Okaloosa County. The site features about 11,000 acres and is located six miles east of Crestview on U.S. Highway 90, contiguous to the northern border of Eglin Air Force Base and divided by Interstate 10.
Acres: 11,000 (no, that's not a typo)
* The State of Florida should be highly motivated to attract a large user that will employ over 1,000 workers to this site, meaning incentives more than likely would be significant
* The site is served by CSX Rail
* Utilities are located on site
* Site is on high ground, far enough from coast to avoid any significant storm damage
* Plenty of talented manufacturing labor in area, much of it available annually from large military base
Hoke County Mega Site
Hoke County, North Carolina
North Carolina is poised for another large user. Incentives from the state have never been better and this site in Hoke County, located near Fayetteville and Raleigh-Durham is just now being marketed hard by the state, Progress Energy and North Carolina's Southeast Region. In other words, a sweet deal awaits a user for this 1,366 acre site.
The Hoke County site is located just 12 miles from Interstate 95, one of the South's most important roadways. Situated nicely in the Southern Automotive Corridor, this site has easy access to thousands of manufacturing suppliers, including those in the automotive sector. Easy access can be gained to a large container port. While an automaker is a possibility with this site, it is as perfect as it can get for a large distribution center.
* As mentioned, three strong economic agencies are selling this site, including the large utility Progress Energy, the state of North Carolina and the regional economic development agency North Carolina's Southeast (www.ncse.org). That give a potential user a wealth of incentives sources
* All environmental studies have been completed with minimal findings
* Site was granted certification by the N.C. Dept. of Commerce after having satisfied an exhaustive shovel-ready checklist
* This site features dual rail service, not typical of supersites in the South
* Expansion capability of 5 million gallons a day of water usage
* All other utilities are on site
* Plenty of talented labor available for any deal that would create as many as 5,000 jobs
Callaway South Site
We originally launched LaGrange and West Georgia into the national and international news when we were the first to break the story in early January that Korean automaker Kia had shifted its site search to West Georgia. Kia officials not only took a particular interest in a greenfield site in West Point, that's the site they chose. But there's another site Kia looked at near West Point and that's the Callaway South site in LaGrange. Obviously, that site will be looked at now by some of Kia's suppliers.
The Callaway-South site is located in Troup County, features more than 1,800 acres and is owned by the Callaway Foundation. The site features rail, airport and Interstate 85 access and frontage. Kia officials didn't like the fact that the rail line runs along Interstate 85 on this site, meaning the rail line would be between the factory and the Interstate. We know of a bunch of industries that won't be that picky on this site.
* Great Interstate 85 visibility and immediate access
* As mentioned, mainline rail runs along Interstate 85
* Centrally located in the massive and growing every day Southern Automotive Corridor
* Plenty of talented labor available with large military base nearby
* Located close enough to use the Atlanta airport for all employees
Holly Ridge Site
Richland Parish, Louisiana
This site, affectionately called "the crown jewel of mega sites," is located on Interstate 20 in Northeast Louisiana. The site features a primary tract of 1,440 acres; however, the surrounding 3,860 acres are part of the one-owner, option-secured site.
Holly Ridge is located in a Federal Renewal Community providing millions of dollars in federal tax credits and deductions. In addition to the typical incentives a large user would receive from the state and local levels, a company that invests about $1 billion and plans to hire at least 1,500 workers would earn a minimum of $20 million in tax credits and deductions from the federal government.
Few supersites in the South feature as much impressive infrastructure as that found in the Holly Ridge site. Dual rail, an existing interchange on I-20, fiber, 500KV transmission line on site and unlimited water availability are just a few of the perks you'll find on this site.
Acres: 5,300, with a 1,440-acre primary site
* Nicely situated in the Southern Auto Corridor between Nissan in Mississippi and General Motors in Shreveport, La.
* One owner site with options
* Lots of infrastructure in place, including dual rail
* Significant federal incentives
Mississippi County, Arkansas
This new supersite is one of four that have cropped up recently in the Memphis, Tenn., region. Sites in Marion, Ark., Tunica, Miss. and Crockett County, Tenn. make up the group. Site 34 has a huge presence on Interstate 55, with more than two miles of frontage. It is located just 34 miles from Memphis.
* Two I-55 Interchanges on site
* Just outside Memphis metro
* Located near growing automotive cluster in Crittenden and Osceola counties in Arkansas
* BNSF rail nearby
Southeast Louisiana Super Site
Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana
This site is located on Louisiana's North Shore and any large user will able to cash in on tens of millions, if not more, from the federal government if it locates there. Tangipahoa Parish is one of the counties located in the Gulf Opportunity Zone. The passage of the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act in December of 2005 was done to jumpstart deals in areas affected by the hurricanes of 2005. It is a significant lure for large industry, such as automakers locating in "Go Zone" counties or parishes in Louisiana and Mississippi. In other words, the incentives that are on the table are significant. However, knowing this federal administration, those incentives probably won't be on the table for more than three years. So, if you're ready to act, now's the time.
The Southeast Louisiana supersite is located on Interstate 55 and has direct access to the Port of New Orleans. One other feature includes the fact that counties in Southwest Mississippi and parishes in Southeast Louisiana are working together to bring a large user to this site. If you've never worked with two states for your project, as opposed to one against the other, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the result.
* Located far enough from the coast to avoid major storm damage
* Close to major markets in Louisiana, including all ports
* Site is served by Canadian National Railroad's main line
* Two-state commitment by Mississippi and Louisiana
* Part of Go Zone set up by feds in December of 2005
* Significant incentives available from the federal government
West Tennessee Automotive Park
Crockett County, Tennessee
The latest in a handful of sites anointed by the South's most powerful economic development entity, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the 1,600-acre supersite in Crockett County is located in Fruitvale near Bells, Tenn. It is the second site in Tennessee and the fifth in the South to be certified as a megasite by TVA and its consultant, McCallum Sweeney of Greenville, S.C. The site is located just north of Interstate 40 near Interstate 155, 60 miles northeast of Memphis and 15 miles northwest of Jackson, Tenn. We haven't visited the site as we have many of the others we've written about over the years, however, if TVA has certified it -- there are dozens of sites in TVA territory that have submitted for certification since 2003 and have not received it as of yet, nor will they -- then it's good by our book.
* TVA certified
* CSX mainline nearby
* More than 1,000 contiguous acres
* Being marketed as an automotive assembly site exclusively
If you are a regular reader of Southern Business & Development, you may think that we've written about this site before. We have written about the megasite in Columbus that earned TVA certification shortly before it was purchased by SeverCorr Corp., last year. The startup steelmaker is currently building a large steel plant on that site.
But adjacent to that site is another 1,800-acre tract Columbus officials put together in late 2005 called Crossroads. It is located in the Gulf Opportunity Zone, an area of the South designated by the federal government for special incentives as a result of the hurricanes of 2005. The site has a number of advantages for a large user, most notably up to $400 million in incentives for the right tenant.
* Multiple rail carrier access
* Existing utility infrastructure adjacent to site
* Adjacent to commercial airport
* Located in the center of the Southern Auto Corridor
* An incentive package rivaled by few supersites
Augusta Corporate Park
The Augusta Corporate Park is a 1,725-acre site that is zoned for everything from offices to heavy industrial. The site is located 18 miles from Interstate 20, nine miles from I-520 and about seven miles from the Augusta Regional Airport.
* Rail access
* Location is about 100 miles to the port of Savannah and 150 miles from Charleston's port
* All utilities either adjacent or on site