Talk to most municipalities about expanding their industrial base and you are likely to hear about tax incentives, grant funding and mill revitalization.
Talk to town officials in Burrillville and you will hear about all of those things – after they tell you about the plans for their new industrial park.
Fearing that one of its major manufacturers was going to move, and that the commercial tax rolls in the former mill town were too dominated by the local power plant, town officials recently did what no other municipality has ever done in Rhode Island – they paid more than $1 million for 258 acres of land on which they plan to build their own industrial park.
“The town decided that we wanted to be proactive,” said Thomas Kravitz, Burrillville’s town planner and chief economic development officer. “We did it to address the immediate concern of one of our local manufacturers needing room to grow, but we also did it so we could control our own destiny and develop the land in the best way possible.”
Located in the northwest corner of the state bordered by both Connecticut and Massachusetts, Burrillville’s commercial tax rolls in recent years have been boosted by Ocean State Power, a 580-watt gas-fired combined cycle power plant.
But with that contract close to reaching its maximum benefit for the town and another of the town’s major manufacturers looking for a place to expand, Kravitz said they saw an opportunity and went for it.
“We are trying to play up our geography,” he said. “The park itself is located about six or seven miles west of Route 146, and it’s right on Route 102. The property taxes are only $18.90 per thousand of assessed valuation – which is low. There are just so many selling points.”
In fact the town has already made its first sale within the park. Stedagio, an offshoot of the local meat-processing company Daniele International Foods, known also as Daniele Prosciutto Inc., is planning to build an 80,000-square-foot facility on the 34 acres it bought from the town for $300,000. The new facility, which should be opened early in 2004, is expected to employ between 60 and 80 people.
Plans also call for the company to build an additional meat processing plant within five years, then buy an additional 30 acres and build maybe one or two more in the next 15 years.
“We are going to build at least one building now, but there will probably be three or four more in the future,” said Stefano Duckevich, president of Daniele Prosciutto Inc., and the new Stedagio. “The new facility will be the most advanced in the world. We wanted to build because there isn’t any room to grow where we are now, and we wanted to take advantage of the new technologies.” The company’s current location is in Pascoag.
According to Duckevich, who will run the new company with his brother and sister, the initial expansion plans were out of state.
“Rhode Island was out of the scope, it was discarded because it is so difficult to do business here,” he said. “When the town started getting involved and then came up with various proposals it started to make sense for us. The state has never made an effort for us, but the town of Burrillville has really taken the time and put forth the effort.”
Scott Gibbs, president of New England Economic Development Services, a private economic development and advisory company based in Lincoln, said while the idea of a municipality building its own industrial park is unusual, it is also very progressive.
“This is the first time I have ever seen a municipality going forward on their own to purchase, permit and sell plots of land in their own industrial park,” he said. “I think it’s a reflection of Burrillville’s state of mind. They are very progressive.”
According to Gibbs, who owns two other development companies in the state, developable industrial land in the state is a rare find these days, and it will be even harder to find over the next decade. That alone, he said, makes Burrillville’s industrial park marketable.
“Building without tenants, building on speculation, from a standpoint of marketing is not that difficult for industrial parks,” he said.
“This allows the town to be in the game of recruiting and retaining companies. The town sold the last parcel of land in its other industrial park this year, so without this they would have nothing to offer companies.”
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