Washington County is in a better position to market the blank canvas of an industrial park that it’s had for over two decades thanks to site certification and rural infrastructure grant funding.
The Washington County Economic Development Council (EDC) announced in September that the 201-acre industrial park located just north of Chipley has been site certified by Quest Site Solutions of Greenville S.C. The certification ensures studies, engineering work, surveys, geo technical work and Phase 1 & 2 environmental work has been completed and any defects cured that might cause any standard land use issues.
“All of the required studies are done, and that shaves a year-and-a-half to two years off the time when they (developers) can’t even build until these studies are done,†said EDC Executive Director Ted Everett.
Everett said the site certification helps EDC market the industrial park to companies seeking property with lower development risk for manufacturing and distribution operations it hopes to attract.
A part of the delay with being able to develop the industrial park over the past decade was that the city of Chipley did not have the sewer capacity to accommodate growth but will have that soon with the planned opening of a new spray field.
“When they do that, we can accommodate any growth that wants to come to the county,†Everett said.
More good news came in October when Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) program was injecting $4.9 million into infrastructure developments in eight rural Northwest Florida communities, some of which are in Washington and Holmes Counties.
“When we invest in infrastructure improvements, we are building a foundation of success for Floridians in our rural communities,†DeSantis said in a press release. “These investments will attract and expand business opportunities, facilitate the creation of good-paying jobs, and diversify local economies which will strengthen Florida Panhandle communities for generations.â€
The City of Bonifay was granted $362,839 to renovate the former Bonifay Middle School facility to accommodate business expansion and create 40 jobs. Holmes County received $1,870,700 to extend water and sewer for Project Greenway, a new 40,000-square-foot Busy Bee travel center creating 120 jobs and a $20 million capital investment in the area.
Washington County received $300,000 to secure engineering design services of proposed infrastructure improvements for site certification of the industrial park.
“What that grant will do is come out here and do a complete review of the industrial park and determine where the water lines, sewer lines and any future roads need to go,†Everett said.
Everett said having a certified shovel-ready site will leave the industrial park as a prime option for companies needing rail or interstate access that would allow travel to South Florida, Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas within a day’s drive for truckers.
Washington County is working with Opportunity Florida, Florida’s Great Northwest and Enterprise Florida to reach potential developers.
“I wanted to make sure that we’re trying to put our industrial park in a better place than it’s ever been before,†Everett said.