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Mike Weaver doubts Millpond Business Center will ever attract a major company because of its limited access to transportation routes, but he believes it could be a breeding ground for satellite companies.
Weaver, a military veteran and former state representative, addressed the future of Millpond on Tuesday night while briefing Radcliff City Council on the recent work of the North Hardin Economic Development Authority, which he chairs.
Providing a retrospective on the authority’s history, Weaver tied the past into the future as he discussed the opportunities available for Millpond.
Weaver attended an economic recruitment trip in Texas in early 2012 sponsored by the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, where he noted four elements a site needs to be desirable for economic development: Access to rail, interstate highways, waterways and flat land.
Of those, he said, Millpond only has indirect access to I-65 via a “10-mile link” off Joe Prather Highway, which limits the city’s capabilities.
In contrast, he noted, Elizabethtown has access to interstates, two parkways and rail.
“We’re not ever going to be what E’town is, but we can still play this game,” Weaver said.
Weaver believes Glendale Mega Site will attract industry, and with it, spin-off companies that need land nearby. The authority recently met with a Japanese company that supplies parts to a parent company in Elizabethtown. The company has not been named, but Weaver has said the parent company wants the supplier nearby, though not directly in the city.
Another benefit for Millpond, he said, will be the completion of Patriot Parkway, the connector between Elizabethtown and Radcliff he said could drive more satellite companies to Radcliff’s door.
The authority in partnership with the city is finishing up the clearing of 40 acres of Millpond, which Weaver believes will allow the city to better market the site. He said Tuesday the work should be completed by the end of the month and seeding will be done in April to “dramatically” improve the look of the site.
The board is expending around $12,000 to rent equipment and purchase fuel while Mayor J.J. Duvall offered lighter equipment and workers to operate the machinery. Weaver said more land might be cleared than originally expected because the employees are working diligently and showing interest in their efforts.
The board would likely consider clearing the land in front of U.S. Cavalry — one of two lots sold at the center since the purchase of the 160-acre property in 1999 for more than $600,000 — sometime next year, Weaver said. If the parcel is cleared, he said, potential suitors could actively see a business operating on the site.
“A prospective client looking at Millpond would not know there is an industry up there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Weaver believes the need for flat land can be obtained through cooperation between the authority and the city, judging by its ability to clear land and sell timber.
The authority’s former executive director, Brad Richardson, approached the city in 2010 and requested $800,000 to level roughly 40 acres to grade, which Richardson maintained was vital to promote the site to businesses. The council balked at the figure and reduced the request, voting 4-3 to approve around $475,000 for the work after then Mayor Sheila Enyart cast the tie-breaking vote. The authority later refused to take the money and the matter was dropped until the recent partnership.
Richardsonresigned in Sept. 2011 and the authority, which was undergoing changes with several new members, opted not to hire a new director. Instead, it re-evaluated its finances, Weaver said.
When Weaver became chairman, he said, the authority was about $147,000 in debt and forced to borrow money each month to pay salary, benefits and interest, including a $60,000 salary for a part-time executive director.
Richardsonsaid the board was not overly concerned about the debt at the time because it knew the value of Millpond and was confident this debt would be paid off once the land started selling.
In 2012, Duvall was made an ex-officio member of the board, which leased 54 tillable acres to B and H Farms for $132 an acre to be paid in two installments at planting and harvest. Those two payments of $3,564 have been paid and are in the bank, according to Weaver.
The board also received more than $67,000 from the sale of timber at the site, hired an administrative assistant and established office space at the Chamber building in Radcliff.
And the authority paid down its debt to $100,000 and placed around $48,000 into its checking account.
Weaver said the authority’s revenue includes a $30,000 allotment from the city, a $20,000 allocation from the county and a $7,000 farm lease. These revenue streams will be used to pay operational costs, improve Millpond, pay down the line of credit and subscribe to the I-65 Alliance, which provides recruiting opportunities.
“We do have enough money to continue operating,” Weaver said.
Councilman Jacob Pearman commended the board for its renewed focus on Millpond, noting how attractive the site is becoming.
“It’s a tough field to play in to attract industry,” Pearman said.
Councilman Don Yates said it’s been “a long time coming” to receive a report on the authority’s activity as thorough as Weaver’s. Yates said he often felt “hoodwinked” by the authority in the past.
Weaver said he wants to maintain a close relationship with the mayor and council considering the mayor has the authority to dissolve the board if needed, which would put Millpond back into the hands of the city.
“We have so much to sell here,” Weaver said. “It just has to be packaged right.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other business:
· Radcliff City Council approved the renaming of the Elizabethtown-to-Radcliff Connector to Patriot Parkway, joining Elizabethtown and Hardin County in formally adopting the name.
· Mayor J.J. Duvall reminded residents of Radcliff First, a forum organized by the mayor to court feedback from businesses on what issues the city needs to address. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. today at Colvin Community Center with Toshie Murrell, president of the Heart of Kentucky Association of Realtors, serving as guest speaker. Duvall also plans to address guests. There is no admission charge, but lunch, provided by the North Hardin Democratic Women’s Club, costs $6, Duvall said.