While the city catalogues Gloucester's vacant and underutilized industrial space, two companies have expanded their in-town plants.
Both Gorton's and metal-forming company Bomco have plans to build out their facilities, or have already done so this year, despite a tough industrial economy spotlighted in part by a 10.2 percent local unemployment rate.
Bomco, based on Gloucester Avenue, is a metal-forming and fabrication company that crafts aerospace, naval, and natural gas processing parts that opened in 1960. Last year, it started a $4.3 million expansion, all but $300,000 funded through a tax-exempt bond from quasi-state agency Massachusetts Development. The project adds 18,000 square feet of manufacturing space at its Gloucester Avenue site.
Company president Mike McCarthy couldn't be reached for comment on today's story. But, he has said the project expands Bomco's site by some 30 percent and expected the work to finish in June. He expected the project to add 10 manufacturing and engineering positions to its 98-person staff. Even in the current climate, McCarthy has said his company, and complex manufacturing as a whole, is on pretty stable ground. The company has also announced that it's adding a second shift.
The city gave an $18,672 tax increment finance agreement (TIF) to Gorton's in December to help pave the way for the company's $13 million expansion at its facilities on Rogers Street. The TIF agreement begins in 2014, and provides a tax benefit of somewhere around $3,700 each year. City officials had said the TIF would encourage the company to keep its new production line in Gloucester, rather than take the work elsewhere.
The TIF agreement allowed Gorton's to seek state tax incentives as well.
As the two companies work through the expansions, the city has started indexing vacant and underutilized industrial property. That process, said Gloucester's Economic Development and Industrial Corporation executive director Alan Hagstrom, isn't done yet.
The company's initial work found 115 properties out of the city's 515 appeared underutilized. Hagstrom said those properties are ones the city said were worth looking into. He sent out a mailing at the start of the week asking the property owners to respond. So far, he acknowledged, there hasn't been much of a respone.
"A lot of them are private business people who don't want to be catalogued," he said.
Hagstrom said EDIC and city are working on further plans for reaching out. Depending on what comes back from the survey, he said he'll talk with the city and see where to go next.
The EDIC is also looking at creating industrial space behind Cape Ann Industrial Park. But that initiative, said Hagstrom, is in the contemplative stages.
That space isn't the only possible industrial site in the city either.
MassDevelopment's Fuller School Reuse study added an option for industrial redevelopment. The study stated that a retail use of the site could generate the most bang for the development buck, but added that an industrial or community center could produce positive results as well.
"Both the community center and industrial uses are also likely to produce a positive though somewhat less certain result and have potential to deliver other community benefits not measured by land sale proceeds alone," according to the report, conducted by Bryne McKinney and Associates Inc. for MassDevelopment.
The site, when coupled with a joint public safety facility, could accommodate between 25,000 and 50,000 square foot industrial buildings. But, in the current economic climate, a pre-lease or sale to an identified user of the site would be needed before anything gets built, the report states.
Hagstrom said the EDIC hasn't yet looked at the Fuller option.
"Our goal (with the survey) here is to be able to get a good hold on what is available and potentially available," said Jim Duggan, city chief administrative officer.
The survey, he said, is the first part of building an index of what industrial space is open in Gloucester.
If the mailings don't produce a good response, he said, the city will need to conduct some footwork to complete it.
As the city hires an economic development director, part of a reorganization of the Community Development Department, Duggan said it will form a plan for filling those spaces.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.