SERGEANT BLUFF | A 125-acre industrial park in Sergeant Bluff that recently won state certification has already started attracting interest from prospective tenants, Mayor Jon Winkel said Tuesday.

Winkel said, hypothetically, a new or expanding business could break ground within two weeks of signing papers.

The mayor's comments came at a ceremony at City Hall Tuesday morning to announce the industrial park has been bestowed as an Iowa Certified Site designation.

The state certification program, started by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in May 2012 as a way to address the lack of project-ready industrial sites in the state, declares sites are more than shovel-ready as verified through an independent, third-party certification program. Shovel-ready sites have roads and utility infrastructure already in place. The certification was completed by the nationally recognized site selection firm of McCallum Sweeney Consulting.

So far, there are 17 certified sites across the Hawkeye state. The Sergeant Bluff is the first in western Iowa. Sioux City also sought the designation for the Bridgeport West Business Park but the space filled up before the process was complete.

It typically takes three years for a community to earn the designation, but Sergeant Bluff was able to accomplish it in two years. Winkel noted that being a smaller community — with a population of about 4,500 — streamlines a lot of things and working with fewer people to try and make things happen a little quicker than most.

“As a small community, we have to compete with bigger communities and so we have to find ways to be more efficient and do things as good as we can,” he said.

Although she was originally scheduled to appear, Iowa Economic Development Director Debi Durham, who was instrumental in the certification process, was not able to attend Tuesday's news conference.

However, in a release, she applauded Sergeant Bluff and noted the value of the designation.

“Certified sites are a must-have to compete these days,” Durham said. “I congratulate Sergeant Bluff for their foresight in investing in their community this way. Now, the hard work begins as we market the park and look for a project that is the right fit.”

Winkel said the city has lots ranging from two acres to 100 acres available and wants to attract companies that plan to bring high-quality jobs to the community. 

Located between Port Neal Road and Old Highway 75 and connected by the new Dogwood Trail, Winkel said the industrial park is situated in an ideal spot in the southern part of the city. He noted the park has close access to Siouxland Gateway Airport, Interstate 29 and Sioux City’s Southbridge industrial area and is zoned for light industrial or light manufacturing businesses.

Sam Wagner, director of business retention of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, thinks Sergeant Bluff’s industrial park will maintain the region’s competitive edge in trying to attract manufacturers. He also said it should help the area continue to bode well in Site Selection magazine's annual rankings of the country's best places for economic development.

"Having a certified site is a tremendous arrow in our quiver,” Wagner said.

Six times in the last decade, the Atlanta-based national trade publication has ranked the Sioux City metro No. 1 on its list of small metro areas with the most new or expanded business projects.

"A site like this adds to our inventory, it adds to our arsenal of offerings of companies," Wagner said. "We see that this is going to be a tremendous help to keep us in the running for those rankings rather we’re ranked No. 1 or in the top three like we often do."

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