Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Coming of factory to Midway Station makes others, and a hotel, more likely, officials say

By Casey Parker-Bell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Teelcommunications

If you build it, so might others.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift says the recently announced auto parts plant for Midway Station could bring the city more jobs and businesses, such as more factories and a hotel.

“No one ever wants to be the first one through the door,” Vandegrift said about the challenges of bringing industry to Midway after the Woodford Economic Development Authority met Friday at Midway City Hall. “Once someone sees industry in there, they kind of tend to figure, ‘Well, they did their homework. Must be good land, must be a good prospect here. Maybe we will relocate there too.’”

The person who could be most responsible for bringing new business to Midway is Lexington developer Dennis Anderson. He has an option to purchase Midway Station for commercial and residential development and says he has been in discussions with multiple prospects, including retail, medical and biotech businesses, but they are waiting on approval of the tax-increment financing district for the property.

A TIF district would allow Midway Station’s estimated $31 million in redevelopment costs to be subsidized with tax revenue from the development. Anderson said that Midway Station needs significant changes to its infrastructure before development can begin. “The land is too hilly for large buildings to go on,” he said. “It wasn’t ever graded. They just went and put the roads and the streets and everything in.”

The TIF district was approved by Woodford County in August and is pending state approval. “We have inquiries, but until we understand what we have with the TIF our hands are kind of tied,” Anderson said. Vandegrift announced at Monday's Midway City Council meeting that the TIF ordinance will need to be amended to exclude occupational taxes to win state approval.

Midway Station is a publicly owned tract of land originally intended to be an industrial park. After the development’s inability to attract industry, Midway Station is now zoned mainly for commercial and residential development.

If the TIF district is approved by the state, Anderson said, “It is my intention to exercise the option.” He says he has 120 days to exercise his option after the approval of the TIF district.

Anderson says he wants to build a community in Midway but said, “I never dreamed it would be this long, this difficult and this expensive.” Recently, a Subway opened in Anderson’s Green Gables development, where Anderson says he is saving a spot for a hotel.

“Well, Green Gables we saved one site and anticipated getting a hotel,” Anderson said. “We intend to pursue that line.” Just because Anderson wants a hotel, does not mean he believes it will happen immediately. “How long will it sit and wait trying to get a hotel, you know, I don’t know.”

Vandegrift said the new factory would “absolutely” make the arrival of a hotel more likely. And John Soper, chairman of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, believes the factory was “the missing piece” to generate interest from a hotel.

Soper said a hotel operator looked at a two-acre lot next to McDonald’s and decided not to move on the property, but that was before the announcement of the factory.

American Howa Kentucky Inc., the company building the auto-parts factory, will become the second largest job provider in Midway, according to Vandegrift. The largest now is Midway University, with about 100 jobs.

“The one thing we really lack in Midway is jobs,” said Vandegrift. He said AHK’s decision to build in Midway could lead to more development in Midway Station. Vandegrift said in the future there might be four or five business in the development’s industrial area: “I mean, maybe that ends up totaling 250 jobs. That would be enormous for Midway.”

Soper agrees with Vandegrift that the factory could spur other developments and said that there are other businesses interested in Midway. “We’re constantly in conversations with other plants that have looked at this,” Soper said. “It is a very long process.” He added it was “premature” to say whether there would be any new developments soon.

Soper said he anticipates AHK will buy the land in January, at the latest. AHK is a Japanese company that manufactures interior automotive products.

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