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Oakwood industrial park is built: Now will they come?
Hall County poised to fill commercial vacancies when economy rebounds
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Tim Evans, left, vice president for economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and Pattillo Construction CEO Larry Callahan walk around Oakwood South Industrial Park on H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway. The empty shell in Oakwood is completed on three sides, with one side completely open to allow the building to be tailored to the occupant's needs. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

OAKWOOD — In the Oakwood South Industrial Park, a shell of a building with 111,000 square feet is only 90 days away from being ready for business.

Speculative buildings have proven to be a popular tool for landing new industry and the top executive of the company that built it believes this one will be no exception.

But it may take a little while.

Larry Callahan is chief executive officer of Pattillo Construction, a Stone Mountain firm that has built numerous buildings in Hall County. He said Hall has the right ingredients to be ready for business when companies get back into expansion mode.

"The communities that prepare for the turnaround will be the ones that get the first wave of new activity when it comes," Callahan said. "One of the things that is crucial to getting people to come up and take a look at a community is to have a speculative building sitting there ready for them."

He said 80 percent of people looking for a building are looking for an existing structure.

The empty shell in Oakwood is completed on three sides, with one side completely open to allow the building to be tailored to the occupant's needs. The building is attractively landscaped and has paved parking. On one side are spaces for bays to load or unload trucks. Norfolk-Southern rail lines also are nearby.

Callahan said the speculative structure puts a project three to four months ahead.

He said Gainesville and Hall are poised for the resumption of business expansion.

"Gainesville is a model community to pursue new activity," he said. "The leadership is going out trying to find new investment and jobs for the people of the community."

He said a part of the preparation is the previous investment in infrastructure, such as roads and utilities.

Pattillo is not the only player in speculative construction, yet it has four other locations nearby that are ready for prospective industry. The company entered the Gainesville market in the 1980s when it developed buildings in the Airport Industrial Park.

In recent years, it has used speculative buildings to lure companies, such as Kelsey-Hayes TRW, which makes brake products for large trucks and military Humvees.

Tim Evans, vice president for economic development of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce said there is a variety of available space, both speculative buildings and industrial sites that have been vacated, that are ready to move.

He said there are smaller properties also available.

"We have sites that have the needs that businesses are looking for," Evans said.

Among the advantages for the region are its proximity to the interstate highway system and sitting just a little more than an hour away from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He said other important factors, such as the skill level of the available work force, also plays in the decision.

The big factor that will decide the future of the prospective business sites is money. Finding capital in a changing credit environment may be a challenge.

"Capital is the grease that lubricates the industrial machine and right now we have a shortage of grease," Callahan said. "At some point in time, we'll figure out how to get it flowing again and everything will be fine."

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