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Lewis Co. pushing for shell building

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Lewis County Economic Development Authority officials plan to apply for a state Economic Development Authority loan that would provide funding to construct a shell building at the Lewis County Industrial Park, said Robin Poling, executive director of the local authority. While the state EDA will put the project out to bid and find the contractors, the county authority is responsible for selecting the site and marketing the finished building, she said.

"There is a shortage of buildings to show prospective customers who want to come in and get up and running right away," she said. "Some want to build, but with the prospects we've been seeing, they want something already there that they can set up shop and get to work."

Poling said the 50,000-square-foot facility -- slated to cost between $750,000 and $1 million -- is literally the shell of a building.

"It's just walls and a roof and gravel floors with drains," she said. "There's no windows, no doors, nothing but the walls and the roof."

Although the building's amenities will be sparse to begin with, Poling said the idea is to give a potential business owner a place to quickly begin operations. The state Economic Development Authority is trying to fund construction of as many of the shell buildings around the state as possible, Poling said.

The buildings have been used very successfully in Jackson, Tyler and Barbour counties, and the EDA is looking to fund 10 or 12 more, she said.

"A lot of companies coming into an area want to be up and running in 90 to 120 days and it's just not possible to get all the necessary permits and the building constructed in that amount of time," she said. "This way, we get that part of it done for them. It's just a shell that gets the customer close to getting started. They can come in and customize it however they need for their business."

The terms of the loan also stipulate that the building must be expandable by 100 percent, Poling said. If the loan is approved at the April 20 state EDA board meeting, construction could begin by the summer, Poling said.

The building will be limited to industrial or manufacturing businesses, Poling said. Several such businesses have decided against locating in Lewis County over the last several years because there weren't any ready-made buildings, she said.

Because the loan is designed to promote economic growth, the state EDA will defer payments of the principal for up to five years or until a tenant is found, Poling said. Even the interest payments will be fairly high, though, so the project is a joint venture between the county Economic Development Authority, the Lewis County Commission and the Lewis County Development Co., which owns the industrial park. Once a suitable tenant or tenants are found, the sale price or lease will cover the loan payments, she said.

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