A year after the city of Bel Aire broke ground for Sunflower Commerce Park, marking the first phase of development at the 800-acre light industrial manufacturing park, the north Wichita suburb has one tenant, signed agreements for three more and, soon, rail access for the tenants.
Bel Aire officials said Monday the city has received nearly $1 million in grants and a low-interest loan to install a rail siding at Sunflower, which is near 53rd and Greenwich.
The city said it received $566,000 in Kansas Department of Transportation grants and a $421,000, 2 percent interest loan from KDOT for the siding, construction of which is expected to begin early next year.
The project is estimated to cost $1.3 million, and the city of Bel Aire will provide $316,000 toward the project.
Bel Aire City Manager Ty Lasher said the city has been working with Buzzi Unicem to purchase a 12-acre lot at the park and that the funding for the siding will allow the land purchase contract to close.
Buzzi Unicem, a Bethlehem, Pa.-based company that manufactures cement, will operate a $6 million storage and distribution facility at Sunflower and will use about 800 rail cars annually to send and receive its product, Lasher said.
He said completion of the land sale to Buzzi was contingent on the company having a rail spur to its facility, which is what the roughly three-quarters-of-a-mile-long siding provides.
“That’s when (KDOT) went to work and kind of partnered with us to get this done,” Lasher said of the siding project. The siding will be on the north end of Sunflower, he said, connected to an industrial rail line that Union Pacific operates between Wichita and El Dorado.
Lasher said the siding also will provide rail spurs to three other lots at the park. “This will give us a leg up” in terms of recruiting additional companies to Sunflower, he said.
Lasher said the city has tenant agreements with two other firms: Shuttle Aerospace and an unnamed “international company” that will lease a 20-acre parcel at the park to be developed by a private developer.
Lasher said he expects construction for those two companies’ facilities to begin in 2014.
Century Manufacturing, which produces Lucite and acrylic awards and other products for business, was the park’s first tenant. It operates from a 36,000-square-foot building there.