When large manufacturing companies were prevalent decades ago, industrial parks were venues for South Jersey towns to accommodate large businesses and keep them away from residential areas.
Today, they often are home to smaller businesses with a multitude of uses. Galloway Township officials hope to convert the 416,000-square-foot former site of the Lenox China plant into just such a setup.
Their plan could mirror industrial parks in Vineland, Millville, Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Egg Harbor Township and Hamilton Township that are still operating despite the loss of heavy-manufacturing plants.
Towns still say the industrial parks are a way to solicit new businesses; officials say they are a major advantage over towns that do not have one.
Galloway Mayor Don Purdy said that if a major business could not use the former Lenox space, it’s likely a developer could come and break it up into parcels for multiple businesses. This could create a de facto industrial park, which, Purdy said, was part of the original plan when the site was first developed.
“This property is a great opportunity,” he said. “We need a developer who wants to do that.”
Galloway is not the only town making such changes.
In Millville, the privately owned South Millville Industrial Park had been filled by the local glass manufacturers for years and remains mostly full through smaller companies.
Sean Tomlin, owner of Designer Wraps, was operating his business — which puts designs on vehicles — in a garage until a few years ago, when he moved into a former industrial warehouse owned by the Wood family, the family that founded the Wawa chain of convenience stores. Though the space was significantly larger than what he was accustomed to, Tomlin said it worked out easily.
“We just kind of made it our own,” he said. “We made it work for us so we could do what we needed to do.”
Millville has a new 400-acre industrial park near its municipal airport. The land, which was the site of a former military base that the city cleaned up, received approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection a few months ago to have a sewer connection — helping the city attract new businesses, said Don Ayres, head of the Millville Urban Development Corp.
“It’s a place businesses can come in and break ground,” he said. “They don’t have to go through the (approval) process. We spent the past five years doing that.”
Millville has had discussions with interested businesses and began marketing the park nationally in trade magazines, Ayres said. The economy and inability of businesses to secure financing have been the reasons the city has not sold any plots yet, he said.
“Given the uncertainty of the economic situation, a lot of companies are waiting before pulling the trigger on expansion or relocation,” he said. “The whole game has changed because of the overall economy. I think we would have filled parcels if it was 2005 or 2006.”
Commissioner Jim Quinn said he saw more assembly and warehousing uses in the new park. He suggested a company such as FedEx or UPS because it’s near the airport.
“When the economy picks up again, we’ll have a place to show them,” he said.
The 600-acre Hamilton Business Park in Mays Landing has had success in the past year with selling land for two smaller businesses: 15.9 acres for Harrison Beverage from Egg Harbor Township and 15 acres for Florida-based rehabilitation center Treatment Solutions.
Hamilton Township Economic Development Director Phil Sartorio said having the land available attracted developers who might have a difficult time buying enough privately owned land.
“Without it, you may not get a developer to come to your town,” he said. “The township has always looked at it not just as land but a business park.”
Leo Schoffer, owner of Fire Road Business Park and Offshore Commercial Park on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township, said, beyond the zoning, it’s also preferable because the land is not near a residential area whose residents could oppose a project.
Schoffer said the difference between publicly and privately owned business parks is that municipalities tend to be more aggressive in selling land. The towns have not been paying taxes and often get grants or bonds to pay for infrastructures so they have less money tied into it, he said.
The million-square-foot Offshore Commercial Park has businesses such as warehousing for casinos, beverage distributors such as Canada Dry, offices for the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Marshals, and businesses such as FedEx.
The market in Atlantic County for bigger businesses unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, he said — adding he sells and leases land to his clients.
“In today’s industrial world, the key for a success is to be flexible,” he said. “You have to be able to do whatever the business wants.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac