CLARK COUNTY — The River Ridge Development Authority took a step Tuesday toward what could be the first new contract for development of 2021 in the Clark County commerce park, and Executive Director Jerry Acy said the first few weeks of the year have already shown promise.
At a regular meeting Tuesday, which took place via phone conference, the board unanimously authorized Acy to proceed with negotiating the terms of sale of a 100,000 to 200,000-square-foot development on 15.4 acres within the Charlestown section of the River Ridge Commerce Center.
The negotiations come after the board was contacted in late 2020 by a broker representing a “very fast moving project,” a meeting attendee reported. A letter of intent has been filed with the potential developer, who remains confidential until its finalization.
The site is located at the northeast corner of Patrol Road and Paul Garrett Avenue near Knipper Pharmaceuticals. The terms so far include a price of $110,000 per acre.
Acy said these negotiations, as well as a slew of others who have shown interest in other areas, is a good sign after more than 10 months of effects from COVID-19, although he said River Ridge had a “very good year” in 2020 given the conditions including temporary shutdowns.
“That’s pretty big because here it is January and there was a lot of uncertainty about how the activity level might start off,” he said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise, the amount of activity we’ve had just in the first two weeks.”
The director said the influx of interest at the start of the year could reflect renewed activity after months of companies holding back during 2020 with the uncertainty of the pandemic and could point toward a move for the U.S. to bring some of its manufacturing facilities back home.
“There is a definitely a move to re-shoring some of the manufacturing [and] production processes that have in the last 15-20 years gone overseas,” he said, adding that interruptions in supply chains due to COVID-19 may be drawing companies to relocate within the U.S.
“There’s a movement to move a lot of those back into the United States and there will be a ripple effect at different locations around the [country] of course we’ve got one of the best locations here.”
The site Acy is now authorized to negotiate is also located in the Charlestown section of the park, which Acy said is a positive for the continued expansion of the park into that area.
Due to the natural progression of the center, which has included readying land at what was formerly the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, the Jeffersonville section of River Ridge has seen most of the initial new developments.
But staff and contractors are working at getting more and more of the Charlestown land ready — moving the old buildings and structures and adding the infrastructure needed to support new tenants and developers.
New growth in the northern Charlestown section over the past few years includes Knipper Pharmaceuticals, Magnolia Automotive Services, LLC and the extension of Patrol Road and improvements to the 400 acres behind the Clark County 4-H Fairgrounds.
“We’re making a lot of progress and the appearance is changing every day,” Acy said.
The board also unanimously approved the 2021 budget, the draft of which was first presented in December. It includes a projected 54% increase in revenue from construction projects, to just over $20 million in 2021 compared with $9.3 million last year. Total expenses this year are projected at $31 million compared to $20.4 million in 2020, however with $10 million of that funding coming from the 2019 bond and $680,000 from TIF and Urban Enterprise Zone, there is not expected to be a shortfall.
At this first meeting of the year, the board re-elected J. Mark Robinson to serve as president, Ned Pfau to serve as vice president and Phil McCauley, secretary treasurer. Robinson is appointed to the board by the Clark County Commissioners, Pfau by the City of Jeffersonville and McCauley by the Indiana Port Commission.