City builds interest in business park
Businesses are knocking on the door of Baldwin City, but only to learn that the city's business park northeast of town is full, and there is no other city-owned land to offer.
City Administrator Larry Paine and Mayor Stan Krysztof are ready to search for another tract of land for development into a business park. Both have recently heard from businesses interested in locating in the Baldwin area.
"I received a couple of calls about land and buildings in Baldwin for business purposes," said Paine at the City Council meeting Monday night. "We don't have anything to offer. What there is in Baldwin is privately held."
Krysztof said he has received three or four calls. There are two manufacturing businesses interested in building in Baldwin, and a service company is in search of about five acres to build on, he said. City inspector Jim Tarwater has taken a call this week from a company needing up to 10 acres.
"Those are three sitting on the table at the present time," Krysztof said. "Last year, I lost a 10,000-square-foot manufacturing building."
The City Council supported the search for land, and requested cost estimates for the land purchase and the installation of streets, water, sewer and electricity and how it would be funded.
Paine said 100-150 acres would be an ideal tract of land, and would have to be annexed into the city limits. He said he has his eye on a couple tracts of land.
"With all of these (interested businesses), I would say none of them have to be on the highway," Krysztof said. "They can be on back roads with good roads coming to them."
Paine is hoping to attract small businesses to the park.
"We are looking at light manufacturing, business and business service, so we have something to create jobs, something to create assessed value," he said. "Assessed value can be used to reduce the impact of property taxes on the residential mix of the community.
"The idea is small business with folks that will impact the community positively economically," Paine said.
Council president Marilyn Pearse said having more businesses in town would be an economic boon. Other council members agreed.
"I've seen communities have businesses come in and double their tax base," said council member Joe Salb.
"Right now, our highest tax base is individuals," Pearse said. "It would be nice if we could shift that tax base."
Council member Ted Brecheisen Jr. was concerned about the growth the business park could bring, such as the possible future need for a full-time fire department.
"I'm not totally against it, but we need to look at it long and hard," Brecheisen said.
Krysztof said that time is now.
"We've talked about it long enough," Krysztof said. "It's time to start action."
Council member Gene Nelson said any purchase of land right now would be an investment even if the city decided not to pursue a business park and resell the land.
"How can we go wrong with land?" Nelson asked. "That step doesn't seem to be dangerous."
The city's current business park on U.S. Highway 56 was filled two years ago with the construction of the Heritage Tractor facility.
Paine said the city would work with Douglas County Economic Development during the process of developing a business park. He said the development is years away.
"These sorts of things take two to five years to put together," Paine said. "It's not an instantaneous sort of thing. There are businesses who are calling and wanting to locate in Baldwin now. If we had a park, we could say here is what we have available."