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Lack of available industrial space leads to BRIC study

With the Grand Forks Industrial Park almost out of room and expanding its borders likely at this point, local officials are looking at options to deal with an anticipated strong demand for industrial growth in the future.

With the Grand Forks Industrial Park almost out of room and expanding its borders likely at this point, local officials are looking at options to deal with an anticipated strong demand for industrial growth in the future.

The Grand Forks Region Base Realignment Impact Committee is preparing to commission a study examining potential sites for a future industrial park in Grand Forks County.

"The availability of land for industrial development is very limited," said BRIC coordinator Diane Blair. "The existing industrial park is almost full. Where do we go from here?"

Only about 30 acres of land is available for development at the 380-acre industrial park located south of DeMers Avenue on South 48th Street just west of Interstate 29. Of that available space, about 10 acres are not conducive to development, and the largest remaining parcel is only 8½ acres, according to Greg Hoover, the city's urban development director.

"You have a difficult time attracting businesses unless you have land available for them to build facilities on," Hoover said.


Only about 100 acres of the industrial park had been developed or acquired for future development as of 1991. Since then, roughly 250 acres have been spoken for. While there still appears to be open space at the site, most of it already has been put aside for future development, leaving little left to attract new businesses.

The possibility of expanding South 48th Street and the industrial park a mile south to 32nd Avenue South has long been discussed, but difficulties in acquiring the necessary land has stalled the effort.

"The issue is: Where should we expand?" asked Keith Lund, vice president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. "What land has the best potential for industrial expansion in the city and the county?"

Development study

BRIC, a partnership of city, county, economic development and workforce entities, is seeking approval to switch federal funding earlier approved for a master plan for an advanced technology park, now deemed unnecessary, to the planned industrial development land study.

If the change is approved, as expected, when the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment hears the request Wednesday, BRIC plans to immediately begin requesting proposals from consultants and have the study complete by April 2008, conforming to conditions in the original OEA grant.

Seven sites for a potential future industrial park have been identified in the county. All are near intersections of major roads or highways and all but one are located west of the current industrial park.

The study will examine and rank each potential site on a number of criteria, including access to transportation systems like roads and highways, railroads and air travel, availability of utilities, water management, availability of land and costs associated with location.


County planner Lane Magnuson helped compile the list.

"The main thing we looked at is if they have the transportation infrastructure in place," Magnuson said. "With rural development, the two most important factors are access to roads and storm water. We wanted to find some places where there aren't major drainage issues, where they are able to build a pond large enough to handle storm water."

Other factors in selecting potential sites include zoning, proximity to existing industrial development and utility infrastructure and distance from residential housing.

"It is very difficult to locate residential and business development next to each other in a rural setting," Magnuson said. Roadmap studies

If approved, the industrial development land study would be the fifth of five federally funded roadmap studies. The OEA has appropriated $360,000 in funding for four of the BRIC studies. The city and county also have contributed $5,000 each, and BRIC has received $30,000 of in-kind donations from the city, county and Grand Forks Region EDC.

BRIC has completed studies on the economic impact of potential realignment of the Grand Forks Air Force Base and opportunities related to the unmanned aircraft systems industry.

The third business development roadmap on broadband and telecommunications access in rural areas surrounding the air force base has been completed by Missoula, Mont.-based Access Consulting and will be presented to Grand Forks City Council today and the County Board on Tuesday afternoon.

Selection of a firm to conduct the fourth BRIC study on life sciences business development opportunities is under way.


"With the realignment of Grand Forks Air Force Base, we need to make sure our community is poised to take advantage of every possibility that presents itself," said Blair of BRIC. "Where are we going to go? It is very important to look at the future economic development of our region and make sure we have a diverse economy not dependent as much on the base."

Expansion options

Hoover, the city's urban development director, said the expansion of South 48th Street and the existing industrial park southward still is possible, but its future is unclear at this point.

The City Council has looked into extending South 48th Street south to 32nd Avenue South and the next logical step for the industrial park would be to move south, but Hoover said difficulty reaching agreement on a sale price with a landowner on some of the land has delayed the project "for the foreseeable future."

"Everybody agrees we need to expand our industrial park," said Klaus Thiessen, president and CEO of the EDC. "But we're landlocked and the city doesn't own any land adjacent to the park.

"We're to the point now that our park is almost full, so we need to look at other options."

The private sector offers one option for increasing the amount of available industrial space in the area.

Demand for available industrial and commercial space led to two existing buildings becoming the site of a new business park off of Merrifield Road south of 62nd Avenue South and just west of Interstate 29 south of Grand Forks.


The Brown Corporations Business Park, which began with the AgDepot and administration building, has added a third building, with a fourth under construction and plans for a fifth and sixth building to be complete by the end of next year.

"We've been going as fast as we can," said Nick Brown, property manager of Brown Corporations, which owns the business park.

The business park sits on 110 acres, most of which have yet to be developed, but Brown said the plan is to fill it all up with warehouses and office space for lease for industrial and commercial use.

"Grand Forks definitely needs more space," Brown said. "That's what we're trying to provide."

Schuster reports on business. Reach him by phone at (701) 780-1107 or (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; by e-mail at rschuster@gfherald.com or view his business blog at www.areavoices.com/bizbuzz .

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