The Bel Aire City Council is creating an 804-acre industrial park that will target the growing wind power and composites industries.
The council has retained Wichita commercial real estate broker Marlin Penner to broker the property and is weighing comprehensive plan proposals from eight local architectural engineering firms to plan the property.
"We'd like to create a clean industrial park," said Bel Aire city administrator Ty Lasher. "We'd like to get into wind power and composites. We've got a great workforce for that and a lot of interest in the region."
It's the latest initiative for a tract that became controversial in 2009, when the Sedgwick County Commission backed away from a plan to spend $14 million to buy and create the park, under fire from other cities and taxpayers.
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The site covers most of the section framed by Webb Road, 45th Street North, Greenwich Road and 53rd Street North, and the half-section directly to the north.
The planning firm should be selected within a month, Lasher said, and have site layouts and a name for the park by the end of the year.
Penner, who has been actively involved in recruiting German wind power firms to the region, said that Bel Aire needs more than "a big field" to lure manufacturers.
"In order to entice new companies to come here and bring their jobs, we need to have large, well-planned industrial parks with rail and highway access, something with some mass and some coordination," Penner said.
South-central Kansas already has two prospering industrial parks with shovel-ready lots, in Hutchinson and Newton, that have landed wind power firms. That has made it difficult for Bel Aire's land to compete, Lasher said.
"We think that what's been happening is that we were marketing an 800-acre industrial tract with an aerial (photo) and a, 'Please come here,' " Lasher said.
"That's all kind of overwhelming from a business standpoint. They're going to want to know exactly where they're going, where the streets are, where the rail spur is. We were trying to stay open and not eliminate anything, but it was just too open to land a business."
The acreage is part of land acquired by the city in 2002, some of which has been residentially developed. Lasher said the city is still servicing the debt on the purchase, a move that required a tax increase and expense cuts this year by the city.
"We had hoped developers would come in and develop the land," Lasher said. "We could just sell it and a developer would take over, but that didn't happen thanks to the crash of 2008.
"Now, there are fewer developers, fewer builders, credit is tough. Cities have to come up with ways to market their ground.
"If a developer wants to take over, great. But we've got to do what we can as a government to get growth in here."