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By: Darren Hamrick, P.E., MSCE, LEED AP
It is a Whole New World in Alabama. With the recent announcement of Project New World, the Toyota-Mazda joint venture to build a $1.6 billion automotive production plant in Limestone County, Alabama, residents are celebrating a major win (which is not in football). As a result of this terrific news, it is expected that dozens of new automotive suppliers will be relocating to our region or expanding existing operations here in the state.
As one of the most prominent civil engineering firms serving the Alabama industrial market, we are seeing a whole new level of industrial activity, with new prospects looking for industrial sites suitable for development and capable of meeting a fast-track schedule.
From our experience, every automotive supplier looking to capitalize on such an opportunity requires a very aggressive timeline to construct their plant, so equipment testing and production of auto parts may begin. This creates a high demand for large, 20 to 50 acre pad-ready sites, with utilities and support infrastructure in place.
A few years ago, Sain Associates provided technical assistance to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama to help them create the Advantage Site Program, which certifies industrial sites as having “all of their ducks in a row” for development. These sites get more exposure and interest from industrial prospects. However, many of the sites which are certified as an Advantage Site still have not been graded so they cannot be developed as fast as a pad-ready site. An example of a pad-ready site success story was when the City of Jasper, AL hired us to design a 50 acre pad-ready site a few years ago. This site was chosen by Yorozu, a global tier one automotive supplier for its fast-track schedule capability. Yorozu invested $100M in the metal stamping facility at the Jasper Industrial Park.
Because of the urgency of automotive industrial prospects interested in serving Project New World, we are seeing an increased demand for large pad-ready sites. Since the announcement of Project New World, I have consulted with several Economic Development Agencies to speculatively grade industrial sites, with building pads ranging from 225,000 to 2,000,000 square feet.
In dealing with projects this large, and considering a fast-track schedule, we have been able to collaborate with local and state agencies to assist in expedited permits so the building can be under construction while the remainder of the site-work is still underway.
Due to our continuous-ongoing research for industrial sites, we have compiled a list of sites with background information which helps a new project to hit the ground running to meet aggressive schedules. We are excited and ready for the new and expanding businesses coming to join our community.
Darren Hamrick is a professional engineer and leads the Civil Engineering Division for Sain Associates in Birmingham, Alabama. Darren has 20 years of experience with fast-tracking design-build projects in government, medical, and industrial markets.