SIOUX CITY | Cramped for space, Echo Electric Supply looked to replace its Sioux City warehouse and distribution center.
After scouting potential locations around the metro area, the wholesale electrical distributor settled to build at a long-vacant site where a meatpacking plant once stood.
The $2.6 million project under development at 1200 Cunningham Drive was another feather in the cap of city officials, who have invested millions of dollars in recent years to revamp the former stockyards area.
In the past five years, two other companies also have built large warehouses on city-owned land near the Echo Electrical site.
But the city has experienced some delays and disappointments in putting other land that made up the once-bustling livestock district back on the tax rolls. The most high-profile setback came in the aftermath of John Morrell & Co. closing its aging pork slaughter plant in April 2010, a move that eliminated more than 1,300 jobs.
Using proceeds from a $2 million federal grant, the city razed the 1950s-era slaughterhouse and cleaned up the site, bounded roughly by Interstate 29, Cunningham Drive and the Floyd River, as part of a broader plan to transform the long, narrow property into an attractive business park with multiple tenants.
While most of the infrastructure is in place, the city is still waiting to land the first tenant.
Global Foods in March 2011 announced plans to build a pork processing plant that would create up to 170 jobs. But the Sioux City-based company later pulled the plug on the $10 million project, reportedly over concerns about construction costs and the health of the pork industry. The company kept its existing ham-deboning plant at 1826 Chicago St.
Mayor Bob Scott said the city continues to market the ex-Morrell property to other businesses and industries, but no deal is imminent.
"We have nothing going on right now," Scott said.
City Economic Development Director Marty Dougherty said interest in the Yards I-29 Business Park should pick up after the ongoing reconstruction and widening of Interstate 29 through the downtown corridor is finished. The site offers high visibility and access to not only the interstate but also rail service, he noted.
"It's going to be difficult during the next couple years, but when (the interstate work) is finally completed there's going to be a lot of redevelopment opportunities along there," Dougherty said.
Like the aging Morrell plant, the city in recent years has torn down a number of other eyesores left over from the once-thriving stockyards district. In 2007, with another federal grant, the city razed the former KD Station at 2001 Leech Ave. at a cost of $3.15 million. The hulking 1920s-era structure was originally home to a Swift & Co. meatpacking plant and was converted into a business and entertainment complex in the early 1970s.
The dilapidated structure's removal opened up 5.5 acres for new development, but, seven years later, the site remains vacant.
The city has had more success redeveloping nearby land in and around where covered livestock pens and an auction house stood before the stockyards shut down in 2002.
A 102,000-square-foot Home Depot warehouse opened in 2007 at 415 Cunningham Drive. Two other businesses opened just down the road in recent years. Johnstone Supply Co., a heating and air conditioning wholesaler, built a 17,500-square-foot warehouse at 1401 Cunningham Drive in 2008.
A year later, Van Meter Industrial, a wholesale distributor of electrical supplies, opened a 39,000-square-foot distribution center at 901 Cunningham Drive, at a site where the Livestock Exchange building and "hog hotel" once stood.
Echo Electric's new warehouse will be built at the site of the former Floyd Valley Packing Plant. The 42,000-square-foot facility will put all of the company's operations under one roof and more than double the space at its current site at Seventh and Jackson streets, Echo Vice President of Operations Gary Wanderscheid said.
Wanderscheid said the company considered other locations, including the former Morrell site, but that lot didn't fit its building.
The Cunningham Drive location gives the wholesale electrical distributor, which feeds a network of branch stores in a broad region, easy access to Business Highway 75 while also staying close to the downtown core.
"We kind of wanted to stay as centrally located as we could," Wunderscheid said in an interview earlier this year. "There weren't a lot of places to put a building our size in the general vicinity where we are right now."