~~Kent Heermann, Emporia Area Regional Development Association
As most of you may know by now I will be retiring as President of the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas (RDA) sometime in the first quarter of 2022. More on that in future newsletters.
In my 27 years with the RDA and so far in 2021, we have been quite busy working on numerous projects with existing and new companies. The company due diligence, planning, site selection, and investment approval by management or the owners can take up to 12 months. Once the decision is made, it can take 12, 18, or 24 months to construct, install equipment, hire, and train personnel.
One of the biggest challenges for Emporia businesses is staffing. The Emporia labor market area today has a lower unemployment rate than pre-Covid rates. The challenge for an expanding company is determining the labor market in 18, 24, or 36 months. New companies have been advised about our labor availability data. Primarily historical data on employed, unemployed, and unemployment rates.
The projected employment growth of the existing businesses of normal business growth for our region is tracked. With the labor availability challenges, companies make their decision on whether the labor market support their growth.
The next several months Emporia will know whether the expansions will occur, be delayed, or go to another location.
Hand in hand with labor availability is having available buildings or sites that are shovel ready for construction. We have no buildings larger than 10,000 sq. ft. for industrial development. In the last 12 months, Detroit Diesel closed, and Dynamic Distribution purchased the 80,000 sq. ft. building. Then the former Dynamic Distribution 20,000 sq. ft. building was purchased by Steve Sauder, who is in the final negotiations with a new business to the area.
We are building capacity for shovel ready industrial sites, with the acquisition of 90 acres south of Park III by rezoning, removing houses, and utility buildings. The various engineering study, a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, geotechnical soil borings, wetlands determinations, and subdivision platting are being conducted. These reports and studies are necessary for the 90 acres, Park III South, to be available for development in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2022.