ENID, Okla. — The city of Enid and local economic development groups are working together to fund a proposed $1.3 million infrastructure upgrade project to an industrial park on the east outskirts of town.
With the help of a not-as-yet obtained $788,000 federal grant, parties involved hope to construct road, water, sewer and stormwater improvements at the 54th Street Garfield County Industrial Park, located between Willow and U.S. 412.
"It's another way we can incentivize business, by having publicly owned land that is shovel ready, so that they can move right in and build something immediately," said Lisa Powell, Enid Regional Development Alliance executive director. "It helps facilitate development."
The quicker and cheaper it is to move in, or to build on, the more appealing a site becomes to potential businesses, and as a state-certified industrial park, much of the groundwork and guesswork is already taken care of, Powell said.
"We've got road, water, sewer, electric and even rail available, so it is generally ready for someone to move in right away," she said.
Tyson Foods looms large in the park, its facility unmissable driving east or west along U.S. 412. But it is smaller operations, relatively, that the project is meant to prepare for.
The plan is to divvy up a large southern portion of the park into four to seven acre parcels — Powell said there's a good deal of demand for lots that size.
This area to the south isn't as well-developed, and new infrastructure and utilities will help to "open it up" for use, she said.
"Existing water and sewer is along the roads that are already in place ... but we'll need to add more to that southern piece," she said, without which, "it would make that part of the park unusable as it sits right now."
All of this hinges heavily on whether or not the federal Economic Development Administration determines the proposal is worthy of grant funding.
The Garfield County Industrial Authority will be submitting the $788,000 grant application in a week or two, Powell said.
As a 60/40 matching grant, the GCIA will be required to match 40% of the total federal money it receives, out of its own coffer.
ERDA and Northern Oklahoma Department Authority have been assisting in the planning and grant writing processes, Powell said.
The city of Enid might invest in the effort as well, having voted 7-0 during an Aug. 19 commissioners meeting to chip in $237,000 to the project, on condition that the GCIA gets the grant.
The 54th St. industrial park has the advantage of being located in an Opportunity Zone, a designation established by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Opportunity Zones are selected by the state, certified by the secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and defined by the IRS as areas designed to "spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities throughout the country." Tax breaks and benefits are available to entities that invest capital in these zones.
There are two such zones in Enid, with the first stretching from North 16th to South 150th, encompassing Enid Woodring Regional Airport, Breckinridge and Fairmont, according to Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
The second, much smaller zone rests in downtown Enid between Garriott and Willow.
In June of this year, the EDA added Opportunity Zones to its top five list of investment priorities.
With the project centered in the thick of an Opportunity Zone, Powell said she believes the GCIA's application could be looked upon favorably and rise to the top of the pile.
After the application is submitted, she said she's unsure exactly how long a response from the EDA will take, but expects a verdict before the end of the year.