Gail Noggle knows economic development is all about the long game.
The executive director of Polk County’s Economic Development Alliance hopes three years of work is starting to pay off for Bolivar’s Industrial Development Authority property, a nearly 70-acre tract of land between Mo. 32 and Aldrich Road on the west side of Mo. 13 off Wommack Avenue.
Noggle said she’s in the “very initial stages” of working with a business interested in locating at the long-vacant site.
“I’m working with a developer that’s going to be submitting a proposal for certified sites with the state of Missouri for a project that could bring industry to one of several locations across the state,” Noggle said.
While Noggle said she wouldn’t go into further detail because of a confidentiality agreement, she said the IDA property’s designation as a Missouri Certified Site has played an important role in the potential deal.
“Had we not gone through the certification process with the state, we would not even be qualified to be considered,” she said.
The IDA property, certified in November 2017, was Missouri’s 31st recognized development-ready land site, per previous coverage.
Certified land sites meet a set of standards designed to eliminate risk and expedite a company’s move to a new location. Items reviewed include the availability of utilities, site access, environmental concerns, land use conformance and potential site development costs.
In essence, a certified site designation shows property owners completed and passed a phase one environmental survey and established utilities at the site, Noggle previously told the BH-FP.
Certified sites, promoted statewide, save developers precious time.
“For all of these large projects, time is money,” Noggle said. “As they say, the ready community wins.”
Noggle said she’s also working toward saving time and making the IDA property more appealing in another way. She said information from state economic development shows a need for completed work sites.
“There’s a huge shortage of buildings ready for industrial and manufacturing to move into,” she said. “So the trend right now is to have a spec building available.”
She said developers are looking for buildings that are 100,000-square-feet or larger. Most have dirt floors and high ceilings.
Noggle said the spec buildings meet an immediate need.
“They want it right then and there,” she said. “They can go in, and they know the building already exists, and they can modify it and retrofit it to their needs.”
She said, while there is some risk involved for developers, she’s “reaching out to some people to see if there’d be an interest in doing that.”
Tackling a ‘unique beast’
Noggle called Bolivar’s IDA property a “unique beast.”
“It’s a fantastic site, and it’s certified,” she said. “So we’ve done everything we can do to make that ready.”
She admitted the property poses some challenges, namely its distance from Interstate 44, located around 30 miles to the south in Springfield. She said many industrial and manufacturing businesses want to be closer to the major highway.
“We can’t do anything about the interstate, I-44, being where it is,” she said. “It is what it is. So that really does narrow the margin of possibilities out there.”
She said, to her knowledge, access to the property from Mo. 32 and availability of natural gas on the site haven't deterred businesses.
However, she said, “inquiries are very limited.”
Noggle said the IDA board is keeping an open mind when it comes to possible development.
“If the right retail or commercial project came in, then the IDA board of directors would certainly entertain that type of development, as well,” she said.
They’ve seen it happen before.
Tractor Supply, a rural lifestyle retail store chain, opened on a 1-acre parcel of the IDA property in November 2017. The 19,097-square-foot retail space includes a sales floor, external support service area and pet wash station.
Noggle said the IDA board also sold a piece of property along Morrisville Road to a developer last year.
“The anticipated use was for storage units,” she said. “It’s activity, and it’s property the IDA board decided was time to go ahead and do something with.”
To continue building momentum and develop more possibilities, Noggle said she’s spent the last year gathering building data and statistics for Polk County and increasing marketing efforts.
“It’s not a matter of selling the fluff of the city,” she said. “It’s really delving in and giving them some statistics and data toward what they're needing to make a good business decision.”
With the help of the IDA board and community partners, Noggle completed an analysis in April 2019 to determine Polk County’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Through that process, the economic development alliance set four priorities — first being manufacturing and industrial growth, second travel and tourism, third residential development and fourth retail development.
“For a community our size and the amount of money we have to work with, we have a pretty robust program going,” she said.
The key, she said, is to work through regional partners with larger budgets, including the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau and Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
“Anything we can do to tie in and partner with them is going to allow us to reach far more people than we’d ever be able to reach,” Noggle said. “And it’s a very much more targeted approach.”
That targeted approach is essential when dealing with a business park like the IDA property, she said.
“You have to be very specialized, very targeted, or you’re wasting an awful lot of money,” Noggle said. “And you have to realize what your limitations are. We have some limitations there. Not at any fault of our own, but just because geographically where we’re at.”
Persistence is essential, she said.
“You just have to keep plugging away at it, reaching out to as many people as you know, and be realistic,” she said. “Tap into state resources, regional resources, and put yourself in networking situations that make sense.”
Noggle said success is “more about building relationships with your engineers, your architects, your developers, your manufacturing association.”
“Those are your center of influences,” she said.