BY CLAIRE KOWALICK / TIMES RECORD NEWS / 11.3.20
Council unanimously approves design upgrades for business park
Having a design in-hand for infrastructure improvements at the Wichita Falls business park may make the properties at the site more desirable for potential new businesses.
Council approved Tuesday a resolution to amend the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation budget to include up to $1.5 million for design, engineering and geotechnical work related to possible infrastructure improvements at the park. City staff said they expect the design work to come in closer to $1 million.
This proposal is just the first step in potential infrastructure improvements at the WFEDC-owned business park and does not include the construction work itself. Should the council approve the expenditure, the next step is the WFEDC would seek to contract with a company for design and engineering services. The plans are estimated to be completed by spring 2021.
The WFEDC approved the budget amendment at their October meeting for the design work. The planned design includes extension and/or widening of Hammond Road, Fisher Road, Midwestern Parkway East along with water, sewer and drainage improvements.
More than 400 acres of undeveloped property
The business park has more than 400 acres of undeveloped property. The past few years have been a booming time for new industrial businesses choosing to come to Wichita Falls, said Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Henry Florsheim.
With Pamlico Air moving into the old Stanley Tools building, Panda Biotech coming to the former Delphi structure and plans in the works for Clayton Homes to move into the former ATCO building, Florsheim said the city is essentially out of large, quality industrial buildings for new tenants.
The WFEDC and Chamber is now shifting focus on future growth of the business park. Florsheim said just in the past month, there have been three interested companies with two active prospects of coming to the city if there is a commitment to upgrade the roads and provide other infrastructure at the park.
Florsheim said if those two prospects come to the city, it could mean an additional 530 jobs created and $400 million in capital investment. More than 400 acres of the business park was formerly ranch land and has no through-streets or access to water and other utilities. The roads that are in place are not suitable for multiple trips of heavy trucks or machinery. Florsheim said while the interested businesses would pay for the construction of a building, the WFEDC would be committed to infrastructure work during a multi-phased process.
Project will not cost additional taxpayer dollars.
Including the design plan, the Public Works Department estimates the entire cost of the project including design and construction would be about $10.6 million. Florsheim said the project will not cost additional taxpayer dollars and would be funded through the portion of sales tax that is collected and allotted to the WFEDC (4A) for economic-investment projects like this. In order for growth at the business park, the infrastructure work needs to be completed at some point, he said. The design plan is something that can be completed now and kept on hand for whenever construction plans are needed.
With interest rates at a historic low, Florsheim said it is an excellent time for the WFEDC to get a bond for the debt at a low rate and pay it off over time. A rough estimate and timetable from the city shows road and utilities projects completed in at least three separate projects over 2021-2022, finishing in December 2022, if construction work began immediately following completion of the design plan. The WFEDC said having this design plan in place would improve the marketability of the park and improve its attractiveness to potential businesses. The WFEDC currently has approximately $5.5 million in unreserved fund balance for this and other economic-improvement related projects.
Council unanimously approved the resolution.