Just add water

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

In 1989, Scott City voters annexed nearly 2 square miles of land that included a developing industrial tract south of Nash Road and east of Interstate 55. The businesses there primarily were seeking an improved quality of drinking water.

The quality and amount of water available in Scott City has been an issue for many years, for both residents and businesses. Just over a year ago, a meat packing company was considering locating at the industrial park, but the city couldn't supply the large amount of water needed.

The city is attempting to solve that problem up with the current construction in the industrial park of a new city water treatment plant. It will nearly double the city's pumping capacity from 550 gallons per minute to 1,000. The plant is expected to be operational by January 2004 or earlier.

Its location just east of I-55 and improvements to Nash Road at the northern edge of the park have made the industrial tract an attractive location for businesses despite its water handicap. The number of businesses in the park has nearly quadrupled from 15 to 52 since its annexation.

Former Cape Girardeau Mayor Gene Rhodes and corporations he holds an interest in currently own the land in the park. More than 500 of the nearly 1,000 acres have been developed. The park is in an enterprise zone, meaning businesses qualify for 50 percent abatement on local property taxes for up to 10 years and a variety of state tax credits.

Rhodes says he can remember a time when land between Scott City and Cape Girardeau could have been bought for $1 an acre. The price now can run $100,000 an acre and up to $150,000 an acre near the interstate off ramps.

The city's water treatment plant will be a big factor in attracting industry, he said. "It was a problem that we needed to care of," Rhodes said. "There is so much to go in yet, and we needed to have more dependable water."

Water was not a primary issue for the newest business in the park, Minor's Harley-Davidson/Suzuki Sales, which is relocating from Cape Girardeau in the company's 33rd year in business. When it reopens July 1, the motorcycle dealership will do business in a 20,200-square-foot building compared to its present building of 9,000 square feet.

"We will be able to enlarge our inventory, and our visibility will be much better," co-owner Sonny Minor said.

The shop currently is in a light industrial tract at 905 Enterprise, which is in a Cape Girardeau enterprise zone but not on the interstate. Though not its only advantage, the location on I-55 was the Scott City location's primary lure.

"With Harley-Davidson, they want the dealers as close to an interstate as they can get them," Minor said.

"Interstate access for that industrial park is one of the top criteria people have," said Mitch Robinson, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Area Industrial Recruitment Association.

Minor looked at interstate property north of Cape Girardeau as well but said he couldn't match the price.

The building occupies 1 acre, but Minor and his wife, Barb, bought another 1 3/4 acres to allow for expansion. From its current staff of 10, the business immediately will expand to 13 employees.

Location an advantage

Scott City offers most forms of transportation industries are looking for: rail, boat and air and highway. Its location helps make the Scott City park a bargain compared to some others in the area, Robinson said. "Some parks get locked up by high retail development property."

From the city's point of view, there are advantages and disadvantages for the industrial park to be privately owned. For Scott City, the advantage of private ownership is that the empty acreage in the park is not eating up city revenue. The disadvantage of private ownership: Scott City could attract industry by renting buildings for nothing.

Attracting industry is difficult for any city in this slow economy, Scott City Mayor Tim Porch said. But the improvements will make the Scott City Industrial Park even more competitive.

"I think it's ideal for anything," he said.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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