Hall County’s supply of available large industrial space is as scarce as Tim Evans has seen it in his 11 years as the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s economic development vice president.
That shows demand is up — a good thing. But the concern is prospects, especially those wanting space quickly, aren’t willing to go through all steps needed to build on vacant sites.
“The business economy the last couple of years has been strong, and we’re seeing that in terms of workforce availability,” Evans said. “And the unemployment rate is lower and lower.”
But because of the lack of available, speculative or ready-to-go buildings, officials are trying to encourage prospects “to look at a build-to-suit site,” he said.
“Sometimes, they don’t have the time to do that.”
A vacant, standing building “can save a company possibly as much as nine months off a schedule to be in a new building,” Evans said.
“The land disturbance permit has already been applied for, the grading is complete, the shell is up.”
And some companies have a sense of urgency, Evans said.
“They may have a defined business need that’s being driven by a customer or somewhere in their production network they have a critical need — maybe they’ve had a plant fire or something logistically that has created a need,” he said.
“Sometimes, it’s a crisis and they need to get moving very quickly in a short period of time.”
Evans added: “We … need to make sure we are developing the next industrial park to be able to accommodate some future growth.”
The 300,000-square-foot Golden Park Commerce Center off Lanier Island Parkway/Ga. 347 in Buford “is the only sitting empty, standing spec building we have at the moment” in Hall County, Evans said.
A 145,000-square-foot building off Aloha Way next to King’s Hawaiian in Oakwood should be completed in January or February, said Ben Stafford, a vice president with Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, which is developing the property.
The building can be expanded to 325,000 square feet, he said.
“Having an available building like that is important to be able to serve an existing industry that needs some additional space for either warehousing or production, or they may need to move to a larger building,” Evans said of such properties.
German-based Wurth Industries is moving into a 77,000-square-foot building in Gainesville Business Park off Calvary Church Road, he said.
Pattillo Industrial Real Estate also developed that park, Evans said.
King’s Hawaiian, a California-based bakery that open in Oakwood in 2011 and has since expanded, is occupying what used to be a former 120,000-square-foot spec building.
It is what Stafford calls a “success story” for all parties involved.
As for Pattillo’s new building, “this is an extension and further investment by Pattillo into Hall County,” Stafford said.
He noted that the company established an industrial park nearby off McEver Road, across from H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway, in the 1990s.
That area, as well as Thurmon Tanner Parkway between Oakwood and Flowery Branch, has seen steady industrial growth over the past couple of decades.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning an Interstate 985 interchange, or Exit 14, which would connect H.F. Reed at Thurmon Tanner west of I-985 to Martin Road at Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 east of I-985.
The Martin Road area is mostly residential, with many residents opposing the $27 million project, which could get under construction in 2017.
But government and industry officials have lauded the project.
“This interchange ... is a critical project to connect our Oakwood South Industrial park to I-985 and connect to the other transportation improvements built in anticipation of Exit 14,” City Manager Stan Brown has said.