ANDERSON — Efforts to reestablish a business corridor on the city’s north side are expected to receive a boost with the announcement of a new owner for the former Pay Less building at 2310 Broadway.
Barnett Bates, an Illinois company purchased by Forged Alliance Inc. — a company formed by owners of longtime Anderson fabricator Mofab Inc. — plans to move its new business operations to Anderson and remodel the 34,500-square-foot building. The company will invest more than $1 million in the operation, including $500,000 to purchase and renovate the building, and $567,000 to invest in new equipment that will be used to manufacture aluminum and steel grating and louver products for industrial and architectural use.
“We are excited to move closer to our partner company Mofab Inc., and bring much needed development to the north side of town,” Barnett Bates President Max Hains said.
Economic development officials with the city say they’re pleased to see a company emphasizing manufacturing — long a hallmark of Anderson’s vocational identity — moving into a part of town that has in recent years seen a steady decline in its overall business population, especially in the retail sector. But they add that the challenges of revitalizing the area are unique. For example, says Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, existing tax increment financing (TIF) funds are not available for the north side as they are in other parts of town.
The main incentives the city can offer to bring new businesses to the north side are tax abatements and small business food and beverage grants.
“As the city continues to think about how we go about the business of rebuilding ourselves, remaking ourselves, that’ll be one of the conversations that we have to have,” Winkler said. “I know that that is something that is on the mayor’s mind: How do we expand the opportunity for new activities for the citizens of Anderson, and at the same time, improve the quality of life? That’s quite a hat trick to do both at the same time.”
Those limitations must be accounted for as the city considers future development on the north side and in other areas, officials say.
“As we look at comprehensive planning and we think about how we want to move forward as a community and as a county, we need to ask, what’s the new economy look like for the next 20, 30, 40 years?” said Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development. “What happens with the traditional retail? How do you plan your neighborhoods and community and reclaim existing structures to figure out new purposes?”
Barnett Bates’ move to the North Anderson neighborhood is expected to generate about 25 jobs over the next two years. Perhaps just as importantly, Winkler says, the company’s emphasis on skilled manufacturing could mean new opportunities in the years to come for the city’s current middle school and high school students.
“I believe — and there are those who would argue with me — that building things is going to be important in the future,” Winkler said.
“I think it will continue to be very important to be able to build things, to be able to manufacture. I would agree that, more and more, that’s going to be automated. But the skill level that’s required in order to manufacture is going to continue to go up,” he said. “It’s going to take more computer skills, it will certainly take a good STEM resource as far as education in order to be able to do the work that needs to be done in manufacturing.”