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If you build it ...
Building a key tool in wooing industry
By Bernie Delinski - TNValleyNow.com
Matt McKean/TimesDaily
Frank Patterson gives a tour of the new “spec” building in the Rogersville Industrial Park to city Councilmen James Hagood, Jonathon Newton, Colby Tucker. Jim Landers and Danny Jones and Mayor Richard Herston. The building was financed by the Shoals Economic Development Authority.

ROGERSVILLE — On the surface, it looks like 40,000 square feet of empty space.

Local leaders, however, say the speculative building in Rogersville Industrial Park is creating quite a stir. In fact, they say it might have paid for itself already by luring industrial prospects that located elsewhere in the Shoals.

The ultimate goal is for someone to locate an industry in the building, which was constructed at a cost of $1 million by the Shoals Economic Development Authority in 2010.

But another goal comes with that, SEDA President Forrest Wright said.

“To help understand and define the value of its success, understand it’s both a recruiting tool and advertising tool,” Wright said. “It has served its purpose to get people to look at this area and really set the new tone for the Rogersville park.

“The facility has been looked at by a lot of companies, some of which have actually chosen to be in the Shoals. It gave us the opportunity to showcase the entire area,” he said.

An example is TASUS Corp., which announced this year plans to open a plant in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park in a $19.1 million investment that will bring 135 jobs.

“They wanted to look at that building, and decided to build a new building instead,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, the spec building is drawing interest, said Frank Patterson, a Rogersville resident and former SEDA board chairman.

“In the last 12 months, we’ve had 19 who we consider to be good contacts who could do something,” Patterson said. “Of those 19, some may not have located in Rogersville but chose to locate in the area, like in Florence. It’s been a real opportunity for Lauderdale and Colbert counties to have our spec building here, so close to I-65. It draws in a lot of interest, for sure.”

He said a group from Indiana showed up about a week ago. The company didn’t identify itself but was interested in the building and property.

“The building has helped us draw in opportunities we may not have had prior to having the building,” Patterson said.

The Rogersville site was selected for several reasons that benefit the Shoals, including location, Rogersville Mayor Richard Herston said.

“We’re kind of the gateway to the west coming from Huntsville, and we want make it enticing to move into the area,” Herston said.

The site also was selected with the hopes that some industries that could be attracted to north Alabama through the Base Realignment and Closure Act would look west of Huntsville.

Rogersville is about 20 miles west of Interstate 65.

Patterson said Rogersville already has experienced recent signs of growth. He said Dr. Eric Butler is building a 29,000-square-foot medical facility that includes a gym and rehabilitation facility, as well as retail space. In addition, Birdwell Heating and Cooling recently completed a 2,500-square-foot expansion.

Wright said industrial prospects look at the Shoals as a whole, so the spec building is a plus for the whole region.

“Our expectation when we built it was it would take five years to fill it, and we’re on pace right now,” he said. “When someone wants to come in and is in a particular hurry, moving into that building would probably cut a minimum of three to four months off of their construction time. When speed is money, that building makes a big difference.”

Wright said SEDA would prefer to sell the building to a prospect, so the selling price could go toward building another spec building.

“But if the right company wants to come in, we might agree to a lease or lease-purchase,” he said. “We’re not in the real estate business; we’re in the job creation business.”

The building has a reflective-insulator type of application on the roof and can support a 15-ton crane system, Wright said.

“There is not a concrete floor poured, so that allows a company the flexibility of doing underground work before putting in a floor,” he said.

The facility also has room for expansion. The back wall can be knocked out and the base work for a pad is in place that would allow an additional 40,000 square feet, officials said.

Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.

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