River Ridge gains momentum

Giant size, great location lure more companies to Southern Indiana park

Its massive size and access to highway, air, water and rail transportation make the 6,000-acre River Ridge Commerce Center in Southern Indiana a force to be reckoned with, officials and developers say.

“There’s not a place that I can identify in this country that has this much developable industrial ground that is this close to a major urban center,” said Kerry Stemler, president and CEO of KM Stemler Co. Inc.

“Geographically, it’s important.”

Stemler recently developed a 100,000-square-foot custom building at the park for Kansas-based DeCrane Aerospace Inc., which makes interiors for private aircraft. The River Ridge facility makes high-end, fire-treated veneer panels.

The DeCrane building, which opened in June, is on an 11-acre tract and has expansion capabilities to double in size, Stemler said. The building is designed for advanced manufacturing.

To meet requirements in the drying process for veneers, half of the building has a special climate-control function related to heating and air-conditioning systems.

KM Stemler was the general contractor, and Bridgeway Development LLC owns the building. Kerry Stemler holds common ownership in Bridgeway.

“We’ve got some other ones that are in our pipeline,” Stemler said. “We’re working with some other clients to move into that park.”

300 acres sold, 3 million square feet of space constructed

Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority, said about 300 acres at the park have been sold and about 200 acres of that developed.

About 3 million square feet of combined industrial and office building space has been constructed so far, and the park has created 2,700 jobs since 2006, Acy said.

Lee Wilburn, president of Crossdock Development Co., completed a 450,000-square-foot building at the park occupied in 2009 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau initially leased 335,000 square feet and then almost immediately leased the remaining 115,000 square feet, Wilburn said. It employs about 600 people.

“We’re very happy for them to have the whole building,” Wilburn said.

Wilburn is in the midst of developing his second building, a 750,000-square-foot facility, at the park.

“We’ve already done a lot of the site work,” said Wilburn, adding that he plans to construct the building in 2010. “A lot of the infrastructure is well on its way for the second project.”

Crossdock Development owns 122 acres at the park, and its total investment at River Ridge to date is about $30 million, Wilburn said. He said he plans a third building, with 1.2 million square feet, at the park in the future.

Location, low cost of business contributed to success

Wilburn said the park’s location and the low cost of doing business in the area are attractive to clients.

He credited a good work force, low cost of energy, state tax incentives and its designation as an urban enterprise zone as reasons for the park’s success.

“Tenants are very sophisticated and look at all costs of occupancy,” Wilburn said. “They find that those costs are very reasonable here.”

Acy credits proximity to both the United Parcel Service Inc. Worldport air hub at Louisville International Airport and the Clark Maritime Center for making the park attractive to would-be tenants because of the ease of air and water transportation.

He said access to major interstate highways and on-site rail provide additional options.

“We’ll be one of the biggest and the best because of our logistical advantages and transportation access,” Acy said.

Variety of land sizes available

Acy said River Ridge offers a great deal of flexibility to companies compared with other business parks.

“Due to the number of acres that we do have available, we have a lot of flexibility on parcel size,” he said.

“We can go from a five-acre parcel to a 200-acre parcel. Eventually, we’ll be able to go to a 1,000-acre parcel if needed.”

The park site was the former home of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. The U.S. Army manufactured gunpowder there until the early 1990s.

The River Ridge Development Authority received control of the property in 2000 through a lease agreement with the U.S. Army, which does environmental cleanup on land there before transferring it to the authority.

Link: Louisville Business First