The Gainesville City Commission voted on Thursday to move forward with a market analysis along Waldo Road near the Gainesville Regional Airport in what could be the foundation for the next industrial park in the area.
Erik Bredfeldt, Gainesville’s economic development and innovation director, explained that the Airport Industrial Park has successfully added companies over the past 25 years and now lacks room for additional business.
“So the good problem to have is the Airport Industrial Park is basically getting built out, and we don’t really have a lot of land resources left in the park anymore,” Bredfeldt said.
A land sale is underway along with an expansion and potential expansion of two businesses already within the industrial park. Bredfeldt said if those deals go through as expected, the park will be full.
He said the purpose of the industrial park is to provide quality jobs in the manufacturing and industrial realm. Many of the positions provide a liveable wage without needing higher education.
The park also creates revenue for the city through ad valorem taxes.
Bredfeldt said many community partners, like the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, Alachua County and Gainesville Regional Airport, would like to see continued industrial development in the area.
Leaving the process to the private sector fails to place Gainesville in a competitive position. However, creating shovel-ready spots and quick permitting options will help the city stand out to companies running searches for new locations.
“We think from a competitive position that we need to do some analysis, and we need to get that moving now because we’re running out of the resource,” Bredfeldt said.
The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners has already set aside $100,000 for an initial analysis and any future expansions of it.
Bredfeldt identified a funding source for the city to match Alachua County. Gainesville’s partnership to fund Enterprise Zone Energy Retirement Incentive expired this month with around $94,000 to $95,000 left over.
Staci Bertrand, vice president of economic development from the chamber, said the market analysis will answer unknowns about what types of industries are best suited for the area and will also best fit East Gainesville.
But the city, county and all other stakeholders still have a long path ahead to expand industrial access or even create a new park.
“We understand that this is a process—this is not an immediate solution,” Bertrand said.
Commissioners agreed with the need for market analysis and expanding industrial, or even commercial, options in the area.
The commission also modified the boundaries where the analysis will take place, expanding to the south to include Tacachale.
The market analysis will cover the entire airport complex along with the immediate land to the north, on both sides of Waldo Road, and some parcels to the southeast. The Ironwood Golf Course and parcels to the south and east of it will also be included along with the Tacachale property and a strip that connects it to the airport.
Before the commission’s additions, the acreage for the study totaled 5,049.
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut thanked staff for being proactive and said Gainesville wants to be shovel-ready for companies.
She placed the motion to fund the market analysis, which passed unanimously.
Bredfeldt said once the initial market analysis finishes, staff can study the findings and target recommendations and areas for more robust analysis.
He added a draft memorandum of understanding in the backup for the commission that will return for a vote at a future meeting. The memorandum outlines how the county and city will proceed on the project.