Lynchburg area needs more industrial sites
Megan Lucas knows all too well that no product means no project in economic development, especially when it comes to pad-ready sites and move-in-ready buildings.
The lack of pad-ready sites and industrial spec buildings in the Lynchburg region is the major reason the area has missed 65 economic development opportunities that could have brought as many as 12,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in investments during the past six years, says Lucas, CEO and chief economic development officer for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance.
“If you don’t have what they need, they move on,” Lucas says. “This issue isn’t only a Lynchburg regional issue; it’s a statewide issue.”
The alliance represents a region including Amherst, Bedford and Campbell counties that has 13 publicly owned industrial parks of various sizes and readiness and four pad-ready sites. At least two of those sites could support a 100,000-square-foot building, but nothing larger, Lucas says. When businesses approach the region, they’re typically seeking buildings between 100,000 and 150,000 square feet or pad-ready sites of 27 acres or more, she adds. The region has no pad-ready sites of that size. The lack of ready-to-go space is also noted in a five-year economic development strategy released in June 2022 by the Alliance.
Companies interested in the area “can’t wait for us to grade a 50-acre site and get it pad-ready and even get a spec building up,” Lucas says, but “they don’t have that kind of time.”
To rectify the problem, the organization is convening regional business, industry and community leaders during the first quarter of this year “to explore and discuss initiatives and opportunities to get us over the hurdle of pad-ready sites and existing buildings,” Lucas says. Those conversations are expected to examine local development incentives as well as ideas for spec building construction, including public-private partnership possibilities. An outside firm also will be hired to conduct market research.
“Local economic developers have been working diligently to prepare sites in their municipal industrial parks,” Lucas says, adding that grants from GO Virginia Region 2 have helped with due diligence, planning and site development.
The Lynchburg region already has a diversified manufacturing base but, Lucas says, “we need to grow it.”
Associate Editor Courtney Mabeus-Brown contributed to this story.