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Crossroads in Republic ripe for industrial park

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Two buildings in a budding Republic industrial park just might be the welcome mat city officials and developers need to connect with additional manufacturing, warehousing and logistics companies.

Mercy plans to begin production in its Resource Optimization and Innovation manufacturing plant by midyear, and developers are breaking ground this month for an adjacent industrial speculative building in what’s dubbed the Garton Business Park.

Southwest of the James River Freeway and State Highway MM intersection, Texas-based McLane Co. Inc. planted its flag in the area in early 2012 with a hulking $30 million food distribution center.

“That is a hotspot for industrial development,” said Garret Tyson, the city of Republic’s director of community development, including economic functions. “The foundation of the attraction is logistics. You can serve a multistate region from there.”

McLane is the poster child. The food service supply chain giant – a wholly owned subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK) – selected a 117-acre plot to erect its 350,000-square-foot distribution center. From 2788 E. Sawyer Road, McLane trucks deliver to five states, reaching to the Mississippi River, Oklahoma panhandle and the Colorado boarder, according to company materials.

A key selling point, according to public officials and private developers, is the land’s proximity to the Springfield-Branson National Airport and Interstate 44. Tractor-trailers can hop on I-44 in five minutes, and the airport sits less than 10 minutes from the site.

“McLane being there drew attention,” Tyson said. “Just knowing that business went there tells you everything you need to know about the logistical value.”

While the openings by ROI and McLane are six years apart, real estate developer and broker Tom Rankin anticipates a roughly equal time frame for build-out of another six lots in the 80-acre Garton Business Park. 

He and an undisclosed partner are investing $5 million to build a 100,000-square-foot spec warehouse on Lot 2, which is zoned for general manufacturing. Another 63 acres divided into six lots are ready for development in the park, and Rankin said there’s pent-up demand in the market.

“There’s been a shortage of industrial lots from 8-12 acres in size,” said Rankin of Rankin Development LLC and SVN Rankin Co. LLC. “There are a lot of tracts out there that are 40 acres and 50 acres, but haven’t been subdivided.”

The Garton lots are listed for roughly $65,000 per acre. Companies are seeking development land with utilities, off-site detention, and curb and gutter infrastructure in place, he said.

“It’s hard to find acreage that have all utilities to it,” Rankin said. “All those things have to be put in place prior to somebody building.”

A central figure to the development plan is an unexpected one: Drury University. The private school was gifted a few hundred acres in the area in 2001, and Rankin has been working with Drury officials to carve out a plan most beneficial to the university and the municipalities involved. The Republic land, surrounded by agricultural properties, is within Greene County on the outskirts of Springfield.

For its part, officials with the city of Republic have partnered with developers to build Drury Lane through the center of the business park. The work came with a roughly $800,000 price tag, according to the city.

“The city actually built the road with the agreement they would reimburse us fully after the lots sell,” Republic’s Tyson said. “That enables things to progress a little faster and at a little lower cost.”

To Tyson, another industrial gold mine is some 75 acres of undeveloped land immediately east of the Garton Business Park. Still owned by Drury, he said it’s zoned industrial and officials are working to get the land certified with Missouri Partnership, viewed as a key step to attracting corporations.

“I think it’s attractive to manufacturing,” Tyson said.

After all, once the widget is built, it has to be stored and then shipped. That’s the type of manufacturing work Watson Metal Masters Inc. is doing just two miles north in the Brookline Business Park.

In addition to the fertile development ground on the south side of James River Freeway at Highway MM, Tyson said the longstanding business park is at capacity. The last lot in Brookline Business Park recently sold to what he believed is a trucking company. It’s adjacent to Nixa Trucking in the park, which is home to facilities for Red Monkey Foods, Ashley Furniture, Everything Kitchens, Wilbert Funeral Services and Heart of America Beverage, the newest tenant.

Watson Metal Masters, a tenant of the park since 2014, is expanding on its ground yet another time.

“We just received plans for their third expansion,” Tyson said, noting the plans were filed with the city the week Watson Metal occupied its second expansion, bringing current investment to nearly $10 million.

The stainless steel tank manufacturer now employs 100 at the site, and Controller Nancy Little said on the heels of $14 million in 2017 revenue, Watson Metal is hiring for its next growth phase. The new shop space should be ready in June, she said.

Similar to the Watson Metal building, Rankin said his spec warehouse can be expanded on demand, up to 30,000 square feet. Designers at Slone Architects have sketched the building with 32-foot ceilings and 15 dock doors.

“There’s a shortage of product like that in the marketplace,” Rankin said. “We’ve got people looking at it. That’s a good sign.”

Tyson said the city is flexible to the market’s interests.

“There is a demand for these much larger warehouses,” he said. “We try to focus on the fundamentals. We want to make sure the infrastructure is there, it is safe and the table is set.”

Matthew Henderson contributed.

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