SERGEANT BLUFF | Sergeant Bluff Mayor Jon Winkel beamed as he talked about his city’s new industrial park and the opportunities it presents for further growth.
Winkel said the 120-acre park, the first in western Iowa certified by the state, gives Sergeant Bluff a better shot at recruiting manufacturers that previously bypassed Woodbury County's second-largest city.
“We have gotten an uptick in interest since we’ve become a certified park, but nothing concrete yet,” the mayor said.
A Journal analysis shows other smaller metro area cities also have hundreds of acres of shovel-ready land to help attract new or expanding industries. About 500 acres are available in South Sioux City’s 1,100-acre Roth Industrial Park, North Sioux City’s 152-acre Flynn Business Park also is less than half full. Sites also are available in the planned community of Dakota Dunes.
In Sioux City, the inventory of industrial sites has been diminished in the wake of Iowa’s fourth-largest city landing a slew of large-scale projects in recent years.
Sioux City Economic Development Director Marty Dougherty joked the city has become a victim of its own success.
Six times in the last decade, Site Selection magazine, an Atlanta-based national trade publication, has named the Sioux City metro No. 1 on its list of small metro areas with the most new or expanded business projects.
Sioux City’s 250-acre Bridgeport West Business Park is now full, thanks primarily to the sprawling Seaboard Triumph Foods complex. The $300 million pork plant opened in September, creating 1,100 jobs in a first shift, with a second shift expected to be added next summer.
About 17 acres remained in Bridgeport West after the city struck a deal with Seaboard Triumph, but those lots have since been sold to two new firms that plan to serve the plant, a logistics center and a pallet factory.
All but about 120 acres in the city’s Southbridge Business Park also are spoken for. The 400-acre park, located just south of Sioux Gateway Airport, is anchored by Sabre Industries, a manufacturer of towers and poles for the communications and utilities industries. Sioux City beat out several other cities and states for the 2012 project, which expanded and consolidated Sabre's local operations, creating more than 530 jobs.
“I think Marty’s probably right that we are kind of victims of successes, but now is not the time to wait and not be aggressive either,” Mayor Bob Scott said. “We are going to continue to look for land and opportunities where we can acquire.”
Dougherty noted Southbridge’s remaining 120-acre site, formerly a 27-hole golf course, would be ideal for a heavy manufacturer.
“Not only is that site shovel ready, it has a rail yard and rail access,” Dougherty said.
Some land also is available in the city’s other business/industrial parks -- Expedition, Hoeven Valley and The Yards, he said.
Additionally, the city has land-purchase options to expand the Bridgeport Business Park, which offers rail access and close proximity to Interstate 29 and Sioux Gateway Airport.
"As far as land that we own outright, yeah, we don't have as much as we did but we are working on plans for additional sites to be added to the inventory," Dougherty said.
While much of the recent industrial growth has been in Sioux City’s southern end, Scott thinks the city also needs to start looking at other areas if it wants to maintain its momentum.
“Far too often, as a city, we just look south and we need to quit doing that,” the mayor said. “Plymouth County borders us to the north; the city can grow across county lines but we just have this mentality that it can’t and it doesn’t really make a difference.”
ROTH INDUSTRIAL PARK
Across the Missouri River, South Sioux City crossed its boundaries to partner with neighboring Dakota City to create the Roth Industrial Park.
“It’s unique, I think, to have two cities like that sharing resources, working together and it’s been fun working on some different projects,” said Kelly Flynn, South Sioux City’s economic development director. “...It’s something that was started before I came on board but I think it was great for the cities to do that and I think it also impresses some of the industries when they come in.”
The park is named for Eldon and Regina Roth, co-founders of Beef Products Inc., which operates a plant in the park. Other major industries in that area include Tyson Fresh Meats’ flagship beef plant, Omega Industries and Big Ox Energy. Green Star Gassifiers also is in the process of building a plant.
Despite its success in recent years, the Roth park still has about 500 acres of shovel-ready land available, Flynn said. The local governments, he noted, don’t own all of it outright but hold options with the landowners to purchase it for a predetermined price that was reached through their negotiations with the South Sioux City Community Development Agency.
In addition, South Sioux City is in the midst of converting a 100-plus acre park originally designed for large data centers into a light industrial park.
Flynn said the conversion will give businesses more options on where they can set up shop in the northeast Nebraska community, which has developed a knack for attracting green energy firms.
“Anytime you go to the economic development conferences or workshops, that’s one of the things that they do talk about is how much better off your community is if you can have some land available,” he said. “So when somebody does comes looking, you know exactly what’s available and the cost.”
FLYNN BUSINESS PARK
Of the 60 acres in North Sioux City's Flynn Business Park, 45 are available, said city economic development director Andrew Nilges.
“If you wanted them tomorrow, we could start working on that right away,” he said.
Nilges pointed out a potential business doesn‘t have to outright purchase the land if it wants to locate in the park, home to industries that include The Boulder Co., Hepar Bioscience and Nutraferma.
“If somebody’s thinking I don’t necessarily want to purchase land but I want to lease a building out in the business park or I want someone to build it for me and later on I’ll purchase it, those are options too,” he said.
The park, adjacent to state Highway 105, is also near Interstate 29 and Graham Field Airport. Rail access is also avaiable.
Another big advantage of locating in North Sioux City: South Dakota does not have a corporate or personal income tax.
“The business climate and the tax environment in South Dakota is absolutely an asset for us, but we’re not trying to steal Iowa or Nebraska businesses by any means. But if there are companies that are interested in South Dakota that absolutely is a key point of attraction,” Nilges said.
Two years ago, the Flynn Business Park also was designated a South Dakota Certified Ready Site.
SERGEANT BLUFF PARK
The state of Iowa also has a similar business park certification program.
Iowa Certified Sites are verified through an independent, third-party certification, which declares the shovel-ready parks have roads and utility infrastructure in place.
Dougherty noted Sioux City is working to certify its remaining 120-acre Southbridge site. If approved, it would be the 20th site statewide to earn the Iowa designation and second in the metro after the Sergeant Bluff Business Park.
Located between Port Neal Road and Old Highway 75 and connected by the new Dogwood Trail, Winkel said the new park is situated in an ideal spot in the southern part of the city. It has close access to Siouxland Gateway Airport, Interstate 29 and is zoned for light industrial or light manufacturing.
A potential business could start building in the Sergeant Bluff park within two weeks of signing a deal, Winkel said.
Lot sizes range from two to 100 acres. Winkel and the Sergeant Bluff Community Development Corp., a city-funded economic and social development group, hope to attract either a green energy company, something associated with medical supplies or a tenant that would serve as an ancillary business to the nearby Port Neal industrial area in rural Woodbury County.
Most of all, Winkel and SBCDC Treasurer Rick Aadland said they want to bring economic opportunities to Sergeant Bluff, which continues to grow in population. In the last four years, the city has added about 350 jobs.
“That’s some pretty good growth for a town our size and we’re right at 5,000 people now,” Winkel said.