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Space race: Land available locally, but firms want buildings

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Greenwood and Franklin both have land available for businesses to build warehouses or manufacturing plants, but most companies interested in relocating to the area want a building that’s move-in ready, officials said.

The buildings in the cities’ business and industrial parks have stayed full, even as companies have come and gone. Despite the preference for move-in ready buildings, the local economic development corporation and cities still get calls from developers and companies about empty land in business parks, but those projects take longer to plan, according to Cheryl Morphew, Johnson County Development Corp. president and chief executive officer.

Officials declined to discuss pending projects.

If companies want to build, some land is available. In three of Greenwood’s business parks, 21 percent of the 900 acres is vacant. In Franklin, 40 percent of the land in the business parks has not been developed.

About 60 percent of American companies interested in moving to the area want an existing building, Morphew said. International companies are somewhat more open to building, but a weak, post-recession economy and the instability shown by the government shutdown this month have dampened their interest in expanding in the U.S., Morphew said.

The buildings in Franklin business parks that have lost tenants get refilled quickly, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuiness said. For example, the current location for Direct Shot Distributing was empty for less than four months before the logistics company moved in, he said.

The building, formerly the Best Buy distribution facility, is 703,496 square feet and located on Commerce Parkway in Franklin Business Park. That’s a quick tenant change for a building, Morphew said.

Come and get it

Here are two more business parks in Franklin that have land available:        

Name: Franklin Business Park

Location: Southeast  of the Commerce Parkway and U.S. 31 intersection

Total acres: 400

Available acres: 187

Name: Franklin Eastside Business Park

Location: North of the I-65 interchange at State Road 44

Total acres: 64

Available acres: 38

Greenwood’s buildings in business and industrial parks are also mostly full, Mayor Mark Myers said. Light industrial and manufacturing companies have approached Greenwood looking for 50,000-square-foot buildings with space for the businesses to grow. But the city primarily has empty land, not big vacant buildings, he said.

Greenwood has about 900 acres of business park land, with 193 acres available for development. Franklin has about 724 acres of business park land and 295 acres available to build on.

Companies often don’t want to pay to construct a building and want to get into a new location quickly, Myers said. Businesses make decisions on whether to move into existing space or build based on costs, how long they would have to shut down their operations to move to a particular location and whether they need a specialized building, Morphew said.

She said cities and towns locally need to get more land state-certified as ready for development — meaning developers could come in, have their city permit processes expedited and quickly begin construction. Companies are more likely to want to build on land where industrial zoning is in place and where environmental and soil studies have been done.

The state-certified land in Franklin has been prepped to save companies $20,000 to $40,000 in costs prior to construction and comes with a 10-year tax abatement for companies building facilities that are 100,000 square feet or larger, she said.

Bargersville and Whiteland are working to set aside land for business parks, which would have the zoning in place for industrial projects, but only Franklin has state-certified land, she said.

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