Shipping study could help with Wildwood marketing

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Authority analyzing cost of shipping freight from regional commerce park.

By Shannon Watkins

Determining the cost of shipping freight from Wildwood Commerce Park could help in marketing the regional industrial site.

Ken McFadyen, executive director of the Blue Ridge Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA), which oversees Wildwood, recently spent a day in Cleveland meeting with three site selection firms, he told authority members at their Aug. 24 meeting.

“These are companies that act as ‘headhunters,’ gathering data about industrial business sites that are available for companies looking for a new or additional location,” McFadyen said.

He also met several consultants at a Toledo, Oh., conference, from as far away as Dallas and Phoenix. “I met with probably one of the leading transportation site consultants in the United States, Tim Feemster,” McFadyen informed the group. “We were talking about Wildwood as a distribution site, and he asked for our freight cost analysis. I said, ‘What?’ And he explained to me how to do that right there.

“And so we’re exchanging emails right now, with spreadsheets, about developing that information, and he’s not going to charge us.”

Between this and other contacts of possible help for Wildwood’s development, McFadyen concluded, “It was time well-spent.”

Wildwood is a joint project of the City of Galax and Carroll and Grayson counties. The site at Interstate 77’s Exit 19 in Carroll County has been in development for several years, and the localities have been installing infrastructure there in hopes of landing an industry.

Also at the meeting, BRCEDA members learned that the Phase III site certification for Wildwood was submitted on Aug. 15; final site certification may be awarded as soon as October. This is another step in marketing the property to potential tenants.

Engineering Costs

BRCEDA also heard from Carolyn Howard of Draper Aden Associates, the engineering consult firm that is being used in conjunction with Wildwood.

“We need to handle our contract in terms of the contract amount before we do anything else,” said McFadyen, addressing the group regarding finances for upcoming projects.

Howard said that she recommended a $200,000 increase to the engineering contract amounts in relation to the upcoming water and sewer projects for the site. The money would allow Draper Aden to continue with the design and construction of these projects.

The projects would raise the sewage capacity to 400,000 gallons per day and loop the water line serving Wildwood.

Draper Aden works locally with The Lane Group to engineer water and sewer infrastructure serving Wildwood, and all engineering and construction for utilities has been grant-funded.

“I don’t disagree with [the changes], but I would say I need to take time to review this over the next 30 days more closely and then come back with something for the board in September,” said McFadyen, who nonetheless cautioned the board that the wastewater project should not be put off for too long.

BRCEDA decided to hold a decision over the proposed changes until the next meeting.

In other action, the authority:

• learned that, due to changes in Crossroads Institute’s bylaws, there were slots open for BRCEDA members on Crossroads’ board of directors. The seats included representatives for Galax (a 3-year term) and Grayson County (a 4-year term).

“Maybe [Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell] would like to come back on the board,” suggested Keith Barker, a member of BRCEDA and Galax City Manager. “He rotated off after two full terms.”

“I’d be happy to serve,” replied Mitchell when the idea was brought up.

“Since I work for him, I’ll be happy to nominate him,” joked Barker.

Mitchell received the Galax seat.

“Any discussions or debate or defamations?” asked member David Hudgins, regarding the Grayson seat.

BRCEDA member and Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet was mentioned as a likely candidate.

“Myself, or Mr. [Kenneth] Belton?” asked Sweet.

“Kenneth is vice chair,” another member pointed out.

“Well, then I guess it’s me,” said Sweet, who received the Grayson seat.

• was reminded of the annual legislative briefing on Oct. 20.