Property among needs for counties

Published 12:21 pm Monday, September 18, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple
Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority isn't just interested in bringing industries and jobs to the three counties it serves, director Wiley Blankenship said.
Reflecting on the first year of the organization, Blankenship said drawing jobs to any of the three counties - Escambia, Conecuh and Monroe - can help the entire region, because not everyone lives in the same community in which they work.
The Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority, founded just more than a year ago as a partnership among the three counties and several communities in those counties, is funded by public and private investors.
A total of 56 investors - from local governments to banks to hotels to insurance agencies and other businesses - have contributed money for its operation.
Coastal Gateway has several missions, including working with local economic development officials to
And while Blankenship can point to several successes that the CGEDA has helped local officials land - including McArdle Enterprises in Brewton, W&B Trading biodiesel in Castleberry and Summer Industries in Monroeville - he said the past year has also been an opportunity simply to get the organization off and running.
Among the top priorities over the past year has been securing property for the counties to have available industrial sites.
Those sites are under option and in the names of local economic development organizations, he said.
Acquiring the property even before an industry comes knocking allows the counties to be proactive about industrial recruitment, he said.
Having the available land is a big part of the battle just to have potential industries look at an area, Blankenship said. &#8220For certain types of industries, we'll be one of the only places in the state that they will look at,” he said. &#8220Without options in place, they're not going to come look at us.”
Escambia County Industrial Development Authority Director Marshall Rogers said Escambia County already has several sites available but is looking at other opportunities.
She agreed that having the property available gets a community's foot in the door for recruitment.
Brewton's industrial park has a spec building available, one that helped lure McArdle Enterprises to the park, although the company ended up choosing a different site at the park.
Blankenship said he hopes to see Brewton sell that building to a new business - and build another spec building quickly.

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