12/18/2005 - Huge center aims at industry

Sunday, December 18, 2005
News staff writer

The Jefferson Metropolitan Park in McCalla is getting a new industrial building nearly the size of two Wal-Mart Supercenters in hopes of attracting new companies.

Graham & Co. is developing the $15 million, 380,380-square-foot distribution center in the JeffMet McCalla Park, which is owned and operated by the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority.

The entire building is being built on a speculative basis, meaning there are no commitments for any of the space by tenants prior to construction.

Erecting such a large building without anything set to go into it might seem daring, but Graham has had success with similar projects in JeffMet McCalla before.

The company has completed two spec buildings in the park and at one time had both fully leased, though some space remains now.

Combined, Graham will have 920,920 square feet of buildings in the park when the new building is complete.

"We're excited about this new facility because of the location in the nicest industrial park in the Birmingham area," said Mike Graham, president of Graham & Co.

He said there is already interest from two prospects. The building has space for up to four tenants or could be leased to one large one.

Graham brokers Sonny Culp and Jack Brown are tasked with leasing the center.

The building, being built by Cooper Construction Co., was designed by Designform Inc. The same team recently completed a 520,000-square-foot warehouse for Mercedes-Benz near its plant in Vance.

Graham's purchase of the 32-acre site leaves only six parcels of 20 acres or larger each in the park for other industrial and distribution projects. Several smaller interior sites also remain for other types of development.

The project is the first in the second phase of the industrial park and makes the park more than half full with 350 acres of developable land remaining.

Deborah McGill, executive director of the authority, said having the building is a sign of growth and faith in an already active park.

"It shows that Graham & Co. has confidence in the future industrial economic growth of our area," McGill said.

Because it is capable of adding several different companies of varying sizes and industries, the building also helps in further diversification of the park, McGill said.

"We are already a very diverse park and this will only add to that," she said.

OfficeMax Inc. has a distribution center in the park, Plastipak Packaging Inc. produces plastic containers in what was once a speculative building. Being 30 minutes from the Mercedes plant also helped attract automotive suppliers Oxford Automotive, Plastech and Decoma to the park.

Decoma is a tenant with space in Graham's other two buildings in the park, which also have some warehousing and distribution space for Plastipak and D&K Healthcare Resources Inc. pharmaceutical distributor.

All of the companies in the park have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and created thousands of jobs.

In addition to JeffMet, the Jefferson County authority owns property for a business park on Lakeshore Parkway where Wachovia Corp. is building a data center. Known as JeffMet Lakeshore, the park has 266 acres for development and is anchored by the $400 million Wachovia center.

The authority is also overseeing the redevelopment of the former Trinity Steel site downtown with hopes of bringing new projects to the 27 acres purchased through an alliance of Birmingham and Jefferson County.

Having a spec building to show is perhaps the most important factor in attracting new industry to an area, according to Ted vonCannon, president of the Metropolitan Development Board - the head industry recruiter for Birmingham and surrounding areas.

"More than anything, 75 to 80 percent of projects are looking for an existing building that allows them to get production up and going and be in business quicker," vonCannon said. "Spec buildings draw more attention to your community and bring in a number of prospects that wouldn't come otherwise."

E-mail: mtomberlin@bhamnews.com  

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