Gone are the days when major corporations — seeking host communities for a new production plant — will negotiate an agreement with local government and economic development leaders based on …
Gone are the days when major corporations — seeking host communities for a new production plant — will negotiate an agreement with local government and economic development leaders based on property availability alone.
Now, the infrastructure to support the new facility must be in place — probably in an existing industrial park — and the plot of land must be “pad ready.” In other words, the site must be capable of welcoming the start of construction once the dotted lines have been signed and a groundbreaking ceremony held.
In a former day, new industry might be attracted to a community based on usable land, an interstate-accessible location, fair market price and a local pledge to lay the lines of progress — electricity, water and sewer — in time to service the modern facility without disrupting construction timetables or delaying the start of production.
But now, that has all changed.
Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, delivered the eye-opening report to members of the local Industrial Development Board in a recent address.
“Pad ready” wasn’t his only topic.
He also targeted a sobering warning about the approach of “dark manufacturing” plants where automation will take the jobs of unskilled “assembly line-type” workers within the next decade. Jobs that will be available will be for those who are trained to use this type of automation.
This newspaper touched on “dark manufacturing” in a recent edition. Today, we concentrate on “pad ready.” In a future commentary, we will look at what corporate employers now expect of communities that hope to land their new, or relocated, plant.
To quote from our own front-page news story, published April 18 and written by staff writer Tim Siniard, “… ‘Pad ready’ refers to sites in industrial parks where infrastructure is already in place, as well as lots available where the construction of new facilities can begin immediately.”
In today’s fast-paced world of manufacturing production where global competition drives the market now more than ever, site consultants won’t even visit a potential host community without assurances that “pad ready” plots are available.
Such requirements point to the significance of completing the long-awaited Spring Branch Industrial Park, not only with infrastructure like utilities but transportation routes to and from Interstate 75. It is why building the connector roads and massively refurbishing the Exit 20 interchange were so critical to the future of the new park.
It also explains why the Industrial Development Board recently gave thumbs up to authorizing Berry and local leaders to begin a search for property for another industrial park. Their reasoning is sound: It took 10 years to develop Spring Branch, from preliminary planning, to site identification, to acquisition, to funding and finally to site preparation.
Assuming Spring Branch Industrial Park hits its capacity within a few years, a new site will be needed in order for the Cleveland and Bradley County community to remain a viable contender for industrial recruitment, additional business and fresh commerce, all of which will bring new — and hopefully, higher-paying — jobs.
Indeed, the ways of industrial recruitment have changed. Demands by future employers are increasing, and all are becoming far more selective in where they visit and which communities best qualify to make their short list.
If Berry’s information is correct, and if his warning is to be believed, then communities — including ours — must embrace a more aggressive mindset if they wish to expand, and diversify, their employer base.
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