The city of Bel Aire held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Monday for the first phase of an 800-acre light industrial and manufacturing park, Sunflower Commerce Park.
Economic development officials at the groundbreaking on the east side of Webb Road at 50th Street North said the new park will help them recruit companies to the area because the first phase of the park will include 155 acres of shovel-ready sites, with roads and utilities in place. The first phase of the park is platted for 3- to 15-acre lots.
“We are always looking for good quality sites to showcase our community,” said Suzie Ahlstrand, interim CEO of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, in an interview before the groundbreaking. “This is a great addition.”
Ahlstrand added that every prospective tenant of an industrial park has its own set of needs, and the addition of Sunflower Commerce Park presents economic development officials another option to offer industrial users. GWEDC will begin marketing the park immediately as part of the area’s available industrial space, she said.
According to Grubb & Ellis Martens Commercial Group, there is a 6.7 percent vacancy rate for Wichita area industrial space as of the third quarter of 2012.
“To be able to have 150 acres that is ready to be built upon really puts us in a competitive position,” said Marlin Penner, supervising broker and president of NAI John T. Arnold Associates, which is representing the park in property sales.
Sunflower’s first tenant is Century Manufacturing, which produces Lucite and acrylic awards and other products for business. Jim Laubach, Century’s owner, said the company should be operating out of the 36,000-square-foot building at Sunflower in January. “I had a need to do something quick once we sold our building,” he said at the ceremony.
In an interview afterwards, Laubach said his company no longer needs the 110,000-square-foot building it occupies at 3351 N. Webb. He said the company has lost some business to manufacturers in China and it went from peak employment of 120 workers to 29. It sold the building in July to Goodwill.
Bel Aire City Manager Ty Lasher said the park has other prospective users.
“We’re talking with one other business and we have interest from two others,” Lasher said after the ceremony.
He said once the roads are in for the first phase of the park, which Lasher expects to be done by the end of December, “that will also help spur interest” in the park. Sedgwick County will pave 45th and 53rd streets to the site.
Law Kingdon, TranSystems and Schwab Eaton were contractors on the master plan of the park, which also has a Union Pacific industrial line running through it.