The City of Kenai’s industrial park may create several hundred jobs once it is completed, Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said.
“I think that is really the biggest benefit,” Koch said. “Trying to create an environment that there is steady, well-paying jobs for our residents, that’s important for the (Kenai City) Council and for me.”
At its April 3 meeting, the council awarded a contract to Foster Construction for the park’s construction.
Foster Construction will clear brush and trees and level ground to lay down roadways, extend utilities — water, sewer, natural gas — to both ends of the park, and build a sewage lift station that will serve 10 lots, Koch said.
The 19-lot park is about 40 acres and is located on Marathon Road. The Kenai Municipal Airport owns the land.
Koch said the construction contract expires at the end of September, but business could build on the lots sooner. Currently two lots are ready for construction and Buccaneer Energy has already been operating its drill site there under a conditional use permit.
The park will take some time to create the several hundred jobs Koch anticipates, he said. “I think over a decade or two there’ll be a couple 100 jobs in there,” he said. “It’s not something that happens overnight.”
He said Palmer’s industrial park eventually generated about 200 jobs.
The city has invested about $50,000 into the park; the rest of the funding — $1,003,100 — came in state grants, he said. The city is still requesting from the state an additional $500,000 for the north half of the park’s construction, he said.
The industrial park supports heavy commercial and industrial land uses, he said.
“It groups similar kinds of businesses together that are compatible and sometimes in support of each other,” he said. “In this case it’s near the airport so we hope that there’s a natural connection to the airport and some of the future businesses.”
The type of businesses intended for the park — such as drill sites or heavy-duty mechanical shops — are incompatible with residential and sometimes commercial-retail land uses, he said.
“Kenai has been — through the last several decades — going through a growth,” he said.
Pockets of industrial businesses have developed throughout the city, and the park will serve to collect that future development — and maybe relocate the existing development — in one place, he said.
Also, the city will collect property tax on the park’s future infrastructure, its improvements, and leases, and sales tax on its services — though the income generated will be low, he said.
Koch said the city could not use existing vacant buildings instead of park lots because future business may require more than a warehouse and their land uses could conflict with existing businesses or neighborhoods.
“In spite of statements that say that there are many, many empty buildings in Kenai — that’s simply not the case,” he said.
He said the city has a low vacancy rate.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.