Originally Published: June 28, 2009 12:11 a.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - In December 2006, the Fain Signature Group, a major developer and property owner in Prescott Valley, announced plans for an industrial park on 881 acres of grazing land off Fain Road.
Fain family members said they planned to attract light manufacturing and distribution centers, and create 3,500 to 4,000 jobs.
But nearly two and a half years later, the land remains undeveloped, a victim of the recession. The Fain family also has no immediate plans to develop the industrial park, and is concentrating instead on expanding the Big Sky Business Park off East Valley Road.
"Today, it makes good grazing country," said Ron Fain, a managing partner with Fain Signature Group.
Fain and other family members drew an enthusiastic support for the industrial park from Town Manager Larry Tarkowski and the Town Council during a work/study meeting Dec. 14, 2006.
Tarkowski said he envisioned the proposed Prescott Valley Commerce Center as an opportunity to diversify the economy.
"This is going to happen," Tarkowski said a day after the meeting.
However, the industrial park has not happened - yet.
"We're not really moving forward on that," Tarkowski said during a recent interview. "We've got some ideas on how we could go forward if we had a large industrial project."
He said the number of inquiries for large industrial acreage has dropped to "nearly nonexistent" because of the recession.
"When the economy moves up, we will have renewed interest," Tarkowski said.
The economic downturn is one factor, Fain and industrial park experts said.
The ongoing recession makes it harder for industrial park prospects to obtain financing and lines of credit, Fain said.
Industrial park expert Barry Albrecht, chief executive officer and executive director of the Central Arizona Regional Development Foundation in Casa Grande, agrees with Fain to some extent.
"Financing has become an issue in the last 12 months," he said. "It is the availability of financing that has slowed existing projects but hasn't stopped them. It has just delayed them."
Before the recession, the timeline lasted nine to 12 months before industrial park prospects would initiate their projects by beginning construction, said Gary Marks, executive director of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation.
"The timeline has moved to 12 to 24 months," Marks said. "It is just the uncertainty that companies have" because of the economy. "They are being very cautious and very extensive in their due diligence before they make a move."
Marks aid he is trying to follow the will of the Fain family by marketing the proposed industrial park site to companies that seek 20 or more acres. The largely flat site lies astride Fain Road beginning 1.25 miles north of Highway 69.
"We've had a few (inquiries)," Marks said. "Over the last year, I'd say three to five."
Marks said he submitted information about the property to four prospects over the past six months, and has taken at least three prospects to the site.
"They are in the process of determination," Marks said, referring to the prospects. "They may be looking at seven or eight locations. They look for the best deal they can get and the best deal that fits their business plan."
Agreeing with Ron Fain, Marks said, "There is no rush (to develop) when you still have available sites in Big Sky."
The Fain family initially developed Big Sky around 1993, and at first attracted the Ace Hardware Corporation Prescott Valley Retail Support Center and Hensley Budweiser, Ron Fain said.
Fain Signature Group has developed about 100 acres so far, and has room to develop an additional 200 to 250 acres, he said.
He mentioned two newcomers to Big Sky: Prudential Overall Supply, which provides uniforms, towels and other reusable textile products; and U-Pick-It Auto Recycling & Salvage, a salvage yard.
Prudential broke ground in April on a 15,000-square-foot service center at 10170 E. Valley Road. Fain Signature Group sold 20 acres for the salvage yard off East Valley Road.
The majority of the businesses that located in Big Sky cover 20 or fewer acres, Fain said. Unlike the Fain Road property, the terrain in Big Sky does not make it well suited for prospects seeking larger sites, he added.
Agreeing, Marks said, "You'd have to do a substantial amount of dirt work to get a (larger) site prepared."
Marks, an Oklahoma native who has worked for the foundation throughout his 11-year stay in Arizona, said economic development has become "a lot more" sophisticated and competitive over the past two years. The foundation "competes constantly" for industrial park candidates with Kingman, Glendale, Goodyear, and Buckeye in Arizona, and communities in Nevada and southern Utah.
"Today, the hottest thing in the industry is to be competitive," he said. "You have to have shovel-ready sites in most cases. (That means) It is already zoned, and has utilities and nearby roads."
Marks said the Fain Road property is not shovel-ready, and used the term "greenfield" because it lacks infrastructure.
However, Albrecht said the Prescott Valley area enjoys competitive advantages.
Prescott Valley, he said, has "a very good reputation as having a smart-growth, well-planned economic development program."
Prescott Valley officials expressed commitment to the Fain property from the start by proposing a partnership with the Fain family to supply infrastructure. During the meeting in December 2006, Tarkowski discussed building an interchange at Fain Road about 1.25 miles south of Lakeshore Drive. The interchange would provide access to the industrial park serve as a gateway to the tri-city area from Interstate 17.
Prescott Valley officials also designated the site for a regional business park in the General Plan, Community Development Director Richard Parker said.
The property also is located within an enterprise zone that would offer tax breaks and credits to businesses that locate there, Marks said.
Marks remains confident about the Fain land, saying, "You can very well see some activity at that site in two years."