By: WROYWRUL News
Aug 26th, 2013
(Carmi)-Officials are awaiting the installation of streets and utility lines before development can take off in the new Industrial Park.
With the exception of a single parcel off Commerce Street, companies lack access to begin construction.
“Right now we are kind of limited without knowing when the street will be put in,” says Administrator Sandra Irvine.
“That’s kind of crucial because they wouldn’t have any access to the property right now. That’s kind of where we are until we are sure when we can get our street project going so we have some kind of timeline. If someone is looking for property right now, they may not want to wait two years to build.”
The city has been awarded a $1 million federal grant for the construction of streets and sewers. Falcon Avenue will be extended to Industrial Drive, and Industrial Drive will continue out to Route 14.
“The engineer has projected having the design done by early 2014,” says Sarah Mann, Executive Director of the Greater Wabash Regional Planning Commission. “Then it has to be approved by EDA. Once it is approved, it will go out to bid. It could be as far as next summer before we will go out for bid.”
A second grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is funding the Truck Route designation for Industrial Drive. The road will be able to accommodate 80,000 pound trucks.
“We have already gone out to bid on the third grant,” adds Mann. “It’s from Delta Regional Authority. DRA is an eight-state federal program where they fund economic development activities. Actually, White County is the furthest north that they go in Illinois. They cover everything south…Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.”
The grant from the Delta Regional Authority will fund the installation of water lines in the Industrial Park. The city council recently approved a bid from Kieffer Brothers of Mt. Carmel to perform the work at a cost of $67,000. Mayor Jeff Pollard says construction could start in the next few weeks.
The park encompasses approximately 12 acres on the city’s west side. The land was a gift back to the city from Southeastern Illinois College. The city had given the college the property to expand their campus.
“Several years later, they didn’t have any funding or plans to build much out there. Then-Mayor Port was on the foundation board and wanted to approach them about taking some of those lots back to develop.”
Gillard’s True Value Hardware opened in November 2012 as the park’s first tenant. Dr. Clint Taylor plans to relocate his optometry practice to a lot adjacent to Gillard’s off Falcon Avenue. The city has received inquiries from other interested parties. But Mayor Pollard says there are restrictions because the property is in a TIF district.
“A lot of the regulations on the way that we can deal with the property also revolve around their stipulations on job creation, etc. We’ve had some local people that would be interested in it. Unfortunately, their plans did not fit the description of the guidelines we have to go by.”
The city has been talking with Applebee’s about opening a restaurant in Carmi. Irvine says the company didn’t tell the city “no.” They have forwarded information to their real estate department for further review.
The city started the application process for the EDA grant in 2011. East Carmi had been devastated by flooding that spring, and Mann says the disaster helped the city obtain this grant for economic development outside a floodplain.
“When they told me about the Industrial Park, it was right after the 2011 flood. This grant came out from the Economic Development Administration and it was the 2012 Disaster Relief Opportunity.”
Typically, EDA grants are matching 50/50 but the disaster relief designation made the split 75/25.
Aside from the flooding, the city mentioned the lack of room for business expansion on the west side of town. Irvine says the city had limited real estate available for companies looking to relocate.
“We’ve got the five acres of land behind the strip mall, which is available. I’ve been encouraging people to take a look at that. That is in the TIF also. The benefit of being in the TIF is that the city has something to offer in terms of incentives. Anymore, that’s what companies are looking for.”
The city also has an Enterprise Zone to spur economic development but the incentives are limited primarily to sales tax relief.
The Greater Wabash Regional Planning Commission puts together a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region. They help seven counties plan and obtain funding for projects. The commission also offers a revolving loan fund for businesses. Companies desiring to expand or retain jobs can obtain low interest loans.
The planning commission recently helped Carmi and Crossville secure a housing grant.
“We just finished two homes in Carmi and we are working on two more. In Crossville, we just went out to bid on four homes. So they should be completed by the end of the year.”
The commission was established in 1964 to assist Edwards, Wayne, Wabash, and White Counties. They’ve since added Richland, Lawrence, and Crawford.
Another project in Carmi’s future is the upgrade of Burrell Street from Lagoon to Stewart.
“It is going to be widened,” says Mayor Pollard. “The road will have curbs and sidewalks. So you won’t have everybody trying to get over to Bradshaw Park in the middle of the road on their bicycles or walking.”
Funds from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aid Urban (FAU) program will be used to upgrade the section of roadway. The city had received a number of requests regarding the high volume of pedestrian traffic on that thoroughfare. Campers also use the road to get to Burrell’s Woods.