Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

March 14, 2014

Spec building must be local priority

GLASGOW — Last week, in an editorial supporting a taxing district to fund Barren County’s ambulance service, we cited some less-than-inspiring numbers about the county’s economic condition. According to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, Barren Countians earn nearly 9 percent less annually than the state average. Nearly 20 percent of us live in poverty.

Meanwhile, Barren County’s unemployment rate – which rocketed to about 14 percent in 2010 – rose to 8.4 percent in January from 7.4 percent in December, according to figures released Thursday by the state. In the 10-county Barren River region, Barren County has the second-largest civilian labor force but the fourth-highest unemployment rate, behind Edmonson (11.7 percent), Butler (9.5) and Metcalfe (8.8) counties. The national average is less than 7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Our communities need good jobs. Our region needs an economic boost. While both are attainable, cooperation and proactivity from our leaders are musts.

We could rattle off reasons why Glasgow and Barren County should be attractive to prospective industries, and the list would be long. Promoting what we have, though, only goes so far. Eventually, we will be bitten by the things we don’t have.

Among the things we lack, as pointed out this week by the Industrial Development Economic Authority of Glasgow and Barren County, is a building built speculatively in hopes of attracting new industry. Creating plans and financial frameworks for the construction of spec buildings was one of nine “strategic priorities” identified by the IDEA board during a special-called meeting Wednesday.

A spec building is an existing shell facility – usually measuring many thousand square feet with the ability to expand further – that an incoming industry can customize as necessary. It enhances a community’s curb appeal during the shopping phase, and it cuts down on a company’s startup time after a deal is done. There are pad-ready sites in the Highland Glen Industrial Park, IDEA Executive Director Dan Iacconi told the Daily Times this week, but no building.

This is a problem.

“At the present time, we don’t have any facilities to show a prospective client, and many times when a (request for information) comes in, they specifically ask for a spec building,” Iacconi said. “So, when we build one, in our strategic plan, once we put the tactical plans together to make this come to fruition, we build a building that ... will accommodate most needs of a prospective client.”

 Glasgow has seen this scenario before: In late 2005, a need for pad-ready sites and a spec building became apparent. In 2009, a spec building was completed, and it was snapped up by Fortis Manufacturing, a metal stamping business. This time, though, we can’t take nearly four years to get our collective act together. This area needs a shot in the arm, and soon. We don’t have to look far for proof it can be done: A few miles down U.S. 68-Ky. 80 in Warren County – where the unemployment rate was 7 percent in January – four spec buildings have been built, and filled, in the Kentucky Transpark in just the past few years.

The process of securing new industry is, obviously, more complicated than if you build it, they will come. We worry, though, that if we don’t build it, they won’t come. That’s a bothersome thought.

A spec building project requires funding, vision and cooperation between several entities. We appreciate that the IDEA board considers this a key issue, and we urge our elected leaders to work quickly and harmoniously with economic developers in making this investment in our community.

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