Gambling on industry

New Albany and Union County have a decision to make about how competitive we want to be in trying to lure new manufacturers.

At the moment, the community has about run out of quality ready-to-use space to accommodate the needs of new industries.

Phil Nanney, executive director of the Union County Development Association, told the New Albany Board of Aldermen last week that he hopes to have an occupant for the last good industrial building the group has to offer. He suggested the city and county work to construct at least one spec building to be able to offer prospective industries.

In addition to the lack of quality new space, existing space often is in buildings with relatively low ceilings designed for furniture manufacturing. Today’s manufacturers often need more vertical space than the typical building here offers.

The most logical way to construct a spec building would be a city/county partnership with a loan from the state development association or some similar entity.

Spec buildings, in which the shell of a building is constructed, often leaving the floor and the interior unfinished, provide a tremendous advantage in trying lure a new industry. But they also constitute a genuine risk for local governments.

Once the building is constructed, payments have to be made on the loan. If the building were to sit idle for several years, the payments could be a drain on the budgets.

It’s all a gamble. Get a significant industry and we win big. Otherwise, we suffer. It’s a hard choice, but at least one that we think should be analyzed thoroughly. Success often depends on having sites, and even a building, ready to go when the opportunity presents itself.