The city of Kenai is looking to attract development with a new industrial business complex.
Currently unoccupied land off of Marathon Road could provide room for businesses to establish offices, warehouses and other facilities as early as next year if the Kenai Industrial Park is built as planned.
City manager Rick Koch said the project could provide infrastructure and incentives for businesses to settle in Kenai.
"Things like this, that we can facilitate some development, and facilitate businesses, are the areas that (government) can be most effective," Koch said.
The complex received an appropriation of a little more than $761,000 from the Legislature last session, which Koch says will pay for the planning work and the first phase of construction. On Oct. 19, Kenai's city council designated $149,925 of that funding to pay Nelson Engineering for design and administration services for the park.
That first phase of construction will include all the roads for the complex, and utilities for about half of the area. Utilities, including water, sewer and natural gas, have to be brought in from near the Beacon Training Center.
The developed area could provide room for several dozen businesses, depending on the lot configuration and what each business uses the land for. Koch said that the current plan has about 28 lots, but that could change through the design process. Buccaneer Alaska currently operates its onshore drilling from one of those lots.
The industrial park is on airport land, but outside of the city's airport reserve, meaning that development is not limited to airport-related business uses. The area is zoned light industrial, and some airport-related restrictions -- such as no major towers that could interfere with navigation -- will apply, Koch said.
Businesses would lease a parcel of land that is undeveloped, but has roads and utilities connecting it to the grid.
Koch said he's working on incentives that the city council could consider to make the leases more attractive.
One idea he has is to allow businesses to claim the cost of clearing the land and preparing it for building as a credit against their lease payment. That could help fledgling businesses make ends meet, he said, and the city would benefit from those improvements even if the business left the area at some point.
"Everybody wins there," Koch said.
The area near the business park has already benefitted from some improvements, with a stretch of Marathon Road paved earlier this year and a new road created by Buccaneer to access its drilling site.
So far, Koch said between six and a dozen people have expressed interest in the development, but he doesn't expect any firm commitments until the project is closer to completion.
The appropriation funding the project was actually a reappropriation, Koch said. The Legislature allotted money for Agrium's coal gasification project that eventually died, and Sen. Tom Wagoner came to him asking if Kenai had any industrial projects relating to economic development that needed funding. Generally once money is appropriated for a given area, the state tries to keep it in the same area even if it has to be reappropriated. Koch said the industrial park grew from that request.
"I'm real excited about this," Koch said.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.