It has been a decade in the making.
The vision to build Proximity Park came from several community members, John Coen, Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, said Thursday at the business park’s groundbreaking ceremony.
Richard Nienstedt, Ottawa city manager, echoed those sentiments in his opening remarks near the park’s site at 2542 Montana Road, Ottawa.
“We are here because of a lot of people,” Nienstedt said. “We are here because of landowners, people who owned this land; people inside the city and county, general [residents] who were concerned about their community. Where we were going? Where we are going to put new businesses and industry in. Where we were going to create jobs. How we were going to bring those jobs to the community. What you see today is not an ending, but it is a beginning.”
Coen said the project got off the ground because of the land committee’s dedication of making the community better. He said the committee identified the property, figured out how to pay for it and made it happen.
“They took the responsibility of community service to the highest level,” he said.
Nienstedt said the process was not as easy as it would appear.
“It is not just buying land and taking a road grader out there,” he said. “We have had a number of engineers that have helped us on this — ranging from the environment, to where we locate our utilities lines, how we do this and how do we do that. This takes a lot people. This truly is a partnership and a project we could not do without the support of everyone in the community.”
Nienstedt said the Ottawa City Commission and Franklin County Board of Commissioners stepped to the plate and worked together.
“Over the years, we have had a lot of meetings between the city and county commissions,” he said. “They have all agreed this is the No. 1 project we have for both governing bodies combined representing 26,000 [residents]. The city commission has been very committed to this and were risk-takers. Franklin County commission has been strong partners in this.”
Sara Caylor, Ottawa mayor, thanked the land committee for starting the journey nearly a decade ago.
“Proximity Park will be stronger because of the foundation that was built and the copious efforts of the land committee, the diligence of the city and county staff and lessons learned from those mistakes in the past,” she said. “This is our time. We are blessed to be here today.”
Coen said this project is preparing the community for the future.
“The sustainability of a community is incumbent on having a full range of services for all [residents],” he said. “That certainly includes jobs. Jobs not only create income for [residents] to make a living for a quality of life, but the buildings and structures, which house those workers, create a taxing base, which pays for services and infrastructure. It keeps our community vibrant and viable.”
He added the work of many laid the foundation to make Ottawa and the county stronger for generations.
“We have a responsibility to future generations to leave this community better than we found it, so our children and grandchildren make this a better place than we could,” Coen said. “Each of us are only given a few short years in a scope of a life to stand on the stage with an opportunity to care for our community.”
The business park will be built on 315 acres south of Ottawa, bordered by 1-35 to the north, Kingman Road on the south, Montana Road on the east and Rock Creek on the west. Even though the infrastructure of the park has yet to start, the behind-the-scenes work of gaining tenants is revving up.
Janet Peters, Franklin County Development Council board president, said her organization is tasked with marketing and capturing the attention of site selectors.
“We hired Bartlett & West to do this marketing plan for us,” she said. “We felt it was pretty important to get professional guidance on that. They have started the process by putting together a marketing plan so we can have the information out there for site selectors, who are going to be making these decisions. The first step will be a website, which will be up in the next couple of months. Seeing a prototype of it, it is very well done. It is geared completely to site selectors, who are the first step in trying to get businesses here.”
Chris Gutierrez, KC SmartPort president, said the park is catching the attention of site selectors right now.
“You are going to get more activity as we move forward,” he said. “I have been out here with clients. This is what they need.”
Nienstedt pointed out to the crowd the water main pipes laying on the ground in the distance.
“That is the first utility that will be installed out here at Proximity Park,” he said. “We are making progress.”
No time table has been set to begin the work on the infrastructure as of yet. Gutierrez said those pipes are a wonderful sight.
“There is activity here and moving forward,” he said. “The name Proximity Park works great. It is proximity to a Midwest market that is getting a lot of attention from site consultants. Proximity to the region. This region is on fire with projects and industrial activity. Most of our requests right now are for land opportunities to come in and build warehouses and distribution manufacturing. You are in the game.”