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Upsurge in projects and activity seen, say local developers

Hinds County targeting businesses for industrial parks

It’s been an active couple of months in Hinds County’s industrial parks, with an upsurge in projects and activities, say area economic development officials.

“Hinds County has embarked upon an industry targeting program,” said Jason Brookins, director of the Hinds County Economic Develop-ment District (HCEDD). “We are targeting the automotive and distribution businesses because we feel like our interstates, I-20 and I-55, make us a valuable location for those industry groups.”

J.C. “Sonny” McDonald
Industrial Center

Two projects currently underway in the Sonny McDonald Industrial Center on I-55 South have increased awareness of that park and the diversified uses it offers tenants and prospects, said Benjie Barham, director of business development for HCEDD.

“Liberty Tractor Company and Magnolia Label Company are the park’s first two tenants,” Barham said. “Liberty had a small one-acre operation, a sales office, and is expanding onto about 10 acres and will be a commercial sales and service operation. Magnolia is an existing Hinds County company that is moving into the park on about four acres, so the front 15 acres of the park are pretty well occupied.”

That prompted the need for a master plan for the rest of the park, which Barham says is in the planning stages.

“We’re at the point where we need to move deeper into the park and talk about its overall development and future best use,” he said. “That’s what’s going on at that park at this point.”

Greater Jackson Industrial Park

The idea of targeting a specific industry paid off in the Greater Jackson Industrial Park some years ago.

“Metal fabrication was our target — and once we got one metal fabrication company in there, it attracted three or four others,” said Brookins.

Currently, the park is nearly full. Most recently, First Choice Medical Supply Company moved into the former McRae’s distribution facility and acquired land adjacent to its property for potential future growth. Another new company will soon announce plans to move into the park, says Barham.

“A company is going to be occupying the former Apache Products building, which went out in bankruptcy about a year ago,” he said. “That announcement will probably come in the first quarter of 2005.”

“Our other tenants there are doing well, so that park continues to be a major economic force in the county from a jobs and investment standpoint,” Barham added.

Hawkins Field Industrial Park

It is perhaps Hawkins Field Industrial Park in Jackson that has had the most recent activity and the most potential for growth in the near future.

“We’ve had a lot of success in Hawkins Field, working with HCEDD actually,” said Franklin Tate, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Jackson. “Several years ago when McCarty-Holman filed bankruptcy, the company left a number of vacant buildings, and the former Frito-Lay building and Fruit of the Loom building were also vacant.”

“Now, it’s almost 100% occupied,” he continued. “We’ve had some existing businesses expand there, and we’ve had several Nissan suppliers locate there, including Pro-Max Logistics earlier this year.”

Enhancing the Hawkins Field site are two nearly-completed interstate ramps that will give the park’s tenants direct access to I-220, which then provides quick access to interstates 55 and 20. Tate says the city and the Mississippi Department of Transportation will likely officially open those ramps before the end of this year.

“Just the announcement of that (interstate-access) project spurred some activity there that had not been seen in awhile,” Barham said.

Goggin Warehousing, Logistics Insights and Waltex, all tapped as Nissan suppliers, moved into the park during the last quarter of 2003, bringing more than 150 new jobs to Hinds County and investing nearly $4 million in buildings, renovations and equipment. They also spurred a business renaissance of sort in the park.

“In the last couple of years, between the interest from Nissan-related logistics and manufacturing service companies and the interest from distribution companies in general, Hawkins Field has become a major distribution area for automotive, logistics and food distribution,” said Barham.

Long-term tenants, including U.S. Food Service, Sysco Foods and Milwaukee Electric Tool have also been steadily making investments in their facilities.

West Hinds County Industrial Park

HCEDD is working in concert with Hinds Community College, the John Bell Williams Airport and the Hinds County Public Works Department on the planning and development of the airport and the West Hinds County Industrial Park, of which it is a part.

Barham says it will be approximately 450 acres in size and will be a multi-use park focusing on aviation-oriented businesses, offices, manufacturing facilities and warehousing and distribution.

Currently, there are three aviation-related businesses centered around the airport: Marc Inc., Trace Aviation and Aircraft Electromotive.

Northwest Industrial Park

The Northwest Industrial Park, owned by the City of Jackson, is the area’s newest park and officials say it has the greatest amount of undeveloped land.

“BTI, a home building products distributor, is in the early stages of construction in the park,” said Tate. “We are also in the process of executing the sale of another site, so we continue to have prospects look at the park We think it’s a viable park with excellent access to I-220, which has access to I-55 and I-20, so we think it is well situated.”

While Tate says no particular industry group is being targeted for this light industrial park, they will continue to try to lure Nissan suppliers.

“We have certainly benefited, if not directly then indirectly, from Nissan and I think for the next several years we will continue to do so,” Tate said. “I think our success has been that we have available sites that are easily occupiable so a tenant can get up and running fairly quickly. That gives us an advantage there, plus the access we have both from this park and Hawkins Field really makes them both attractive.”

Clinton Industrial Park

The privately-owned Clinton Industrial Park, for which the city of Clinton furnishes the infrastructure, did lose an industry this year when Graphics Packaging announced it would shutdown, said Barham. He noted, however, that it was the result of a nationwide consolidation.

The park also had good news in that Mega Plastic completed a major bricks-and-mortar and equipment expansion this year.

Building the future

Overall, local developers are pleased that existing industry are doing well and feel they have succeeded in creating a pro-business climate on a county and city level.

“Our theme has been making sure that our existing industry do well and helping them expand and grow,” said Barham. “Then, of course, we work to provide the atmosphere that will entice new investment into the available facilities that we have. We have a number of prospects in line to hopefully make announcements in 2005!”

Other Hinds County industrial parks include Commerce Park in Jackson, a privately-owned park in Terry and the Bolton Industrial Park.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Mara Hartmann at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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