Columbiana needs 2nd industrial park to grow

COLUMBIANA — The city has a need for a second industrial park, and City Manager Lance Willard told council on Tuesday that some progress is being made in that direction.

He said the city is interested in the property owned by Mark Brothers that is currently for sale across from the existing industrial park along state Route 14.

Willard also said he is looking into potential funding sources.

The project already has the support of the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce, which sent a letter to Willard outlining the need for the project.

The letter was read aloud during the council meeting by Mayor Bryan Blakeman.

Chamber Executive Director April Brinker said in the letter that city leaders used foresight and hard work to plan and develop the existing industrial park, which has shown to be successful.

“Continuing prior leaders’ vision and dedication, recent infrastructure investments significantly increased the city’s capacity for growth and development,” she said.

She added that with the recent tax incentive programs the city has positioned itself to offer manufacturers “an attractive community to locate their operations.”

She said a second industrial park is necessary since the current one is at capacity.

The property tax incentives offered through the city’s Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) appear to be making the area attractive to new business and development, with several developers and business owners showing an interest in starting projects in the city since the beginning of this year.

During the council meeting Willard announced that a wholesale distribution supplier recently came before the planning commission to share its plans for locating in the city as a result of the CRA.

“Incentives were of interest including the CRA and played a factor in the company’s decision. They will be expanding and making significant improvements which we will submit for CRA,” Willard said.

In order to receive the property tax incentives a CRA agreement must be in place with the city.

A CRA is also in place for the Columbiana Boiler expansion project, which is ongoing, and another project that will result in the construction of several new homes in a new private housing development owned by KDC Properties, LLC near the Old Saybrook development.

The $4.8 million investment consists of the construction of 12 triplexes, plus utilities.

City Council gave final approval for the KDC project that evening, including the 12-year, 50 percent tax exemption KDC sought through the CRA.

Rumors that the new development will be subsidized housing were squashed by city officials, after Crystal Siembida-Boggs said someone brought it to her attention.

Siembida-Boggs said she heard that it was discussed at a homeowners’ association meeting that the new development would be subsidized housing.

Willard said that CRA negotiating committee member and school board of education member Scott Caron had heard the same thing, but Willard indicated that was not true.

Mayor Bryan Blakeman pointed out that the rental prices for the new homes are targeted at around $1,500 a month, which is not subsidized housing.

“This is a big project and it is really exciting and it is going to be interesting to see where it ends up,” Councilman Rick Noel said.

Blakeman noted that the CRA is not only benefiting the city by attracting investors, but it has in turn resulted in banks financing home loans differently in Columbiana because of the CRA, which draws even more people since the interest rates are better.

Scott Jones, who works for a local bank and attended the meeting, agreed.

“This is setting an example. It’s great to be a part of it,” he said.

The city is hosting a tour on Thursday in an effort to educate agents, builders and bankers on the CRA.