COLUMBIA — Plans for two large buildings near Columbia Regional Airport on the 477-acre tract owned by MidWayUSA CEO Larry Potterfield will be considered by the Ashland Planning and Zoning Commission next Tuesday.
The buildings, with an estimated cost of $7 million, would be the largest economic development project in the history of Ashland, Mayor Gene Rhorer said.
Hummingbird Properties, a limited liability corporation owned by Potterfield, submitted plans for buildings of 55,000 and 22,000 square feet near Route H, Hardwick Lane and Rangeline Road. Potterfield said both would be “spec” buildings, meaning there have been no discussions with potential buyers, and the interiors can be renovated as the buyer sees fit.
Construction would start 30 days after the Planning and Zoning Commission grants its approval. Potterfield said he expects the construction to last three to four months.
In addition to the $7 million construction price, Potterfield said an additional $15 million to $20 million would be needed to extend utilities, infrastructure and roads surrounding the property. Companies will have the opportunity to expand on the 55,000-square foot building, Potterfield said, while the small building can be subdivided into multiple spaces.
Potterfield said he hopes the property attracts companies capable of making major contributions to the community. Specific companies won’t be targeted until a more concrete strategy for the buildings is developed, but Potterfield used a storage warehouse with 12 employees as an example of something that “wouldn’t be good for the community.”
“Ideally, it would bring in some type of business that would bring in a lot of people on the building,” he said. “That could mean maybe some type of fairly intense distribution, maybe some light manufacturing. It might be a regional office building.”
An open house for prospective companies to check out the buildings will be held in late June. A consulting agent is helping Potterfield collaborate with the project’s stakeholders, including multiple city governments, Boone County and Regional Economic Development, Inc.
Rhorer said property tax revenue from the buildings would help finance bond issues for Ashland’s public schools, with all three being expanded. Rhorer also said he hopes the project’s combination of tax revenue and job creation further establishes the city’s sovereignty.
“We don’t want to be the extension of Columbia,” Rhorer said. “We’re the city of Ashland, and we want our own jobs and our own economy.”
Potterfield has dubbed his property near the airport the Cartwright Business and Technology Park. He said that the name isn't based on anything in particular but that he likes it because it has no negative connotations.
"You could call it 'Blackhawk Business and Technology Park,' but Blackhawk has some connotations already," he said. "Cartwright really doesn't."
Potterfield said his family has done research on future projects in the park but it would be too “preliminary” to discuss them.
Rhorer said he's looking forward to watching Potterfield's plans unfold.
“We would not be here on this development had it not been for the Potterfield family, that’s for sure,” Rhorer said, “but I look for more in the future.”
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