Last year, businesses spent more than $200 million to construct new buildings, renovate their current facilities and expand in Greenwood and Franklin, an amount greater than the previous two years combined.

The amount of money businesses are investing to build new facilities or improve their current sites is on the rise and is expected to continue to grow in coming years, as economic development has been a key focus of local cities. More businesses means more job opportunities for local residents and more property tax dollars to allow cities to pave roads and hire emergency workers, local officials said.

Last year in Greenwood, businesses received construction permits for $160 million of work. In Franklin, that total was $54 million. In unincorporated Johnson County, the amount of commercial construction has fluctuated in recent years, with highs of $18.1 million in 2016 to lows of $6.4 million in 2015. Last year, businesses spent $8 million.

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One factor in growing the amount of business investment is an improving economy, along with the growing demands of e-commerce and the distribution networks needed to accommodate online shopping, said Dana Monson, the interim executive director of the Johnson County Development Corp.

Recent companies that announced projects in Greenwood, such as FedEx and Newgistics, both cited e-commerce as a major factor in why they have a need for more distribution facilities.

“I think we will continue to see steady growth,” she said. “For many, many years the north side was the focus and now the north side is filling up, and they are looking for the next area that is poised and ready for growth.”

The county is well situated to take advantage of that situation, with ample available land, easy access to highways and a central location in the U.S. that is desired by companies with a need to distribute their products, Monson said.

In Greenwood, the majority of investments were for the construction of new buildings, with the city approving permits totaling $135 million of new facilities to be built in 2017, a figure nearly equal to the two previous years combined.

Much of the increase in business investment in the past year has been in the city’s industrial area on the east side of Interstate 65, as businesses the city approved tax breaks for have begun construction on their multi-million-dollar facilities. That includes a $12 million Wurth Service Supply building, an $8 million speculative building being constructed by Scannell Properties and a $12 speculative building being constructed by Opus Development Co.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers cited the completion of the Worthsville Road interchange at I-65 as a key factor in spurring development in that area. Creating access to the interstate at Worthsville Road makes the undeveloped land near that interchange viable for businesses that rely on shipping and quick access to the interstate, he said.

Overall, Greenwood approved commercial building permits last year for 17 new construction projects that were more than $1 million, including five that were higher than $10 million. The largest permit in 2017 was for a $24.6 million investment in Franciscan Health’s new center on Stones Crossing Road.

But Myers is optimistic that 2018 will be even better for Greenwood, saying that he is continuing to meet with businesses interested in coming to the city. Greenwood also plans to keep up the business growth by bringing on an economic development coordinator to assist in recruiting businesses and modernizing its permitting process to allow businesses to do paperwork online, he said.

The amount of new commercial development in Greenwood is already on track to be higher in 2018, with FedEx preparing to spend $110 million to construct a facility near the I-65 and Worthsville Road interchange. Construction on that project is scheduled to begin in June. And the city is working to finalize a development agreement to bring a $40 million sports and retail complex to the southeast side of the County Line Road and I-65 interchange, a project that they still hope can begin construction this spring.

By the numbers

Here’s a look at how much money businesses have invested in new construction projects in local communities:

Greenwood

2017: $160.5 million

2016: $77.6 million

2015: $52.5 million

Franklin

2017: $54.3 million

2016: $31.6 million

2015: $6.5 million

Unincorporated Johnson County

2017: $8 million

2016: $18.1 million

2015: $4 million

SOURCE: Planning departments

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.