PRICE AND ASHLAND COUNTIES - Park Falls, Butternut and Fifield could all add industrial space to parts of their area. Park Falls Area Community Development Corporation Administrator Frank Kempf says he noticed the area needed more industrial space when he took over his position in 2006.
He describes the situation when he first came aboard.
"The north industrial park here in Park Falls was full and the west industrial park had about four acres that was available for development," Kempf said.
That can handcuff towns looking to attract companies that want more space. Kempf says that becomes a problem when a company needs more space than they can offer.
"You scramble to try to figure out where we are going to put these guys," Kempf said. "And what usually happens is you find a place to put them, but in the end it probably wasn't a good spot for them, and you put them someplace where maybe they shouldn't be."
Park Falls, Butternut and Fifield, along with other towns in the area turned to a USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) to help fund an industrial park study. Kempf said Xcel Energy supplied the 25 percent to win the grant.
MSA Professional finished that study finished earlier this year. It ranked multiple sites in Butternut, Fifield and Park Falls for an industrial park. The rankings looked at highway, rail, water access, as well as other factors like soil condition and wetlands.
According to the study, the most optimal sites weren't necessarily available for the towns to purchase because of the land owners. So, the group recommended the most optimal site that could get purchased.
In Park Falls, that site would be a more than 80 acres site along County HWY E and Tower Road. The cost of a full renovation (which includes gas, electric, etc.) for that site is an estimated $1.8 million dollars, but Kempf said it would be much cheaper to buy the land, and then focus on the needed improvements when a business approaches the group.
In Fifield, the best location is a 27-acre plot at the old Fifield High School site. The cost to fully develop that property would be around $750,000.
In Butternut, the best location would be more than 100 acres at the South Park Road/Bush site. Kempf said that was recommended as a two phase purchase that would cost nearly $2 million for full renovation of the site.
The communities would hope they aren't making space available for businesses that never arrive.
"It is a risk," Kempf said. "You take a chance on that kind of stuff, but if you don't nothing is ever going to happen."
Park Falls will see how much it would cost to buy nearly 80 acres for new industrial space. Kempf said he will start dialogue about that possible purchase.
Butternut and Fifield could move forward with their possible projects. Kempf says they haven't made that decision yet, but he believes each area should pursue an industrial park.
"If we don't do that, we're going to just be a senior citizen society, and we are going to be dependent pretty much on the money that comes in from the government every day," Kempf said.