By BRADEN LAMMERS
Even with a national economy on the rebound, business parks normally average only a few site visits a year.
That’s not the case for River Ridge Commerce Center. The former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant has experienced unprecedented interest and growth, garnering more than 20 visits in the last year.
One Southern Indiana President Wendy Dant Chesser and Vice President of Economic Development Matt Hall presented their numbers to River Ridge Development Authority Board of Directors on Monday.
During the last fiscal year, which runs from July 2012 through June 2013, 1si said that River Ridge properties were submitted as a possible location for 40 different projects, 20 requests for information were submitted on behalf of potential businesses and 1si coordinated or participated in 21 site visits in the commerce center.
Year after year, the interest in River Ridge has continued to increase.
Hall presented a chart that showed the number of active projects in the commerce center since 2007, by year of initial contact. In 2007, there was only one ongoing project, but since, the number of projects have continually increased: to five in the next two years and 20 by 2011. The high water mark was last year, in 2012, with 32 active projects, and already in 2013, 26 active projects have been reported.
Another key to whether or not the money spent to locate the companies in River Ridge has been worth it is looking at a return on investment.
“It pales in comparison to what is shown here in Southern Indiana,” Dant Chesser said of the returns.
According to Hall’s presentation, the national average on return on investment is $18 for every $1 spent. At River Ridge, the development authority’s return on investment is $1,483 for every $1 invested with 1si.
And since July 2006, 1si — the chamber of commerce for Clark and Floyd counties — has been involved in 14 projects at River Ridge. Those 14 projects have translated to 3,527 jobs, with an annual payroll of $111 million, at an average pay per employee of $15.20 per hour. The total taxable capital investment from the projects is $244 million.
Not all of the projects located in the commerce center are tied to 1si and not all of those that are have been included in the current figures.
“These numbers do not include the American Fuji Seal project,” Hall said.
American Fuji Seal Inc. is constructing an 84,000-square-foot building in the commerce center, which will initially employ 50 to 60 people, but the development also includes “obvious” expansion plans in a few years, according to company Vice President Bruce Atcher.
Recently, 1si completed a survey of tenants and developers to assess the short and long-term needs of River Ridge. The survey of 14 companies and two developers is designed to help determine what support and retail needs may be required for businesses and employees in River Ridge.
Dant Chesser said that the growth and partnership with River Ridge ties into the group’s strategic plan for the next five years detailed at group’s annual luncheon last week.
She reiterated the six strategic focus areas Monday, which are: growth through economic development; serving members through business resource services and programming; championing ideas through advocacy; collaborative partnerships for building a world class environment; community messaging to promote 1si’s strategy; and organizational sustainability, which includes governance and financial oversight.
Dant Chesser also noted that River Ridge will be a driving force in the regional economy.
“To say we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [with River Ridge and the corridor] is selling it short,” she said at the luncheon. “We have the chance to build a center of commerce that’s unparalleled in the Midwest.”
As part of 1si’s ongoing effort, River Ridge’s Development Authority board offered its annual contribution of $25,000 to the organization.
STATEMENT ON ACY
At the outset of the meeting Monday, Board President Mark Robinson made a statement relating to the arrest of River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy at an OWI checkpoint in Clarksville on Aug. 25.
According to a Clarksville Police Department report, Acy failed multiple field sobriety tests and tested at a 0.11 blood-alcohol content on a portable Breathalyzer test, which is above the legal limit of .08. At Clarksville’s Police Department, Acy tested at 0.10 blood-alcohol content, according to the police report.
“I’m here to assure each and every one of you, board and community alike, that Mr. Acy is personally accepting full responsibility,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that he provided Acy with several recommendations from the judges and lawyers assistance program, or JLAP. JLAP is a program that assists attorneys and judges with substance abuse issues. Robinson also is a practicing attorney.
“Mr. Acy is taking those recommendations on JLAP seriously,” Robinson said. “During the last three weeks, Mr. Acy is not only doing everything that is required, but even everything that is recommended, both personally and professionally. I plan to support him in anyway possible as he continues along this journey of growth and development and I have absolute confidence, Jerry, in your bright future here.”