Commercial building heats up south of the river

$413M in projects in NKY mean thousands of jobs
Posted at 6:01 AM, Sep 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 07:46:10-04

If things go as planned, more than 4,500 jobs could be added to Northern Kentucky’s payroll in the next three to five years.

At least two companies, IDI and Neyer Properties, have plans to build three industrial buildings on speculation around the Richwood exit off of Interstate 71/75 in Florence, according to Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky. Those three buildings alone could account for that job growth.

With a 2 percent industrial vacancy rate in Northern Kentucky, the structures will fill a critical need. With building permits at an all-time high, too, more large-spec properties are likely on the way, say local developers.

Think big buildings – like 500,000 to 900,000 square feet. That’s the scale of the new distribution center in Hebron for home goods e-commerce company Wayfair, said John Curtin, senior vice president at the Paul Hemmer Co. The sites will need to be 25 to 75 acres.

It will all be a boon to continued home growth in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties over the next five years.

More construction will come at a somewhat slower pace than in the past. Increased regulations and challenges finding large flat sites with utility access could slow additional growth, say officials. SD1 is the first step for all developers, said Miller. They have to make sure capacity is available for that growth.

There were nearly $413 million in building permits issued in 2016 – an all-time high for both new and retrofitted industrial space, said Miller. That’s up from the low of $160 million in 2010 and not quite double the $235 million in 2014. The growth is expected to continue this year.

At the end of June, $227 million worth of permits had been issued, said Miller. Permits are on track to reach or surpass 2016 numbers.

Developers are “actively scouring Northern Kentucky to find a good site for industrial,” said Jeff Bender, executive managing director at Cushman & Wakefield.

Besides more state and federal regulations, there’s also the question of finding the right piece of property. It’s got to be large, flat and near transportation routes, said Bender.

“It’s taking a lot more time to get approvals than 10 years ago,” Bender said.

Today’s process for construction includes getting the okay from SD1, the Corps of Engineers, Kentucky Division of Water and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, plus doing an archeological and environmental impact study.

Among other issues, all the regulations are making sure water and runoff are handled properly, and officials are checking to see if there is habitat for the endangered Indiana bat or the endangered running buffalo clover plant (trifolium stoloniferum).

The most expensive issue is for developers is stream mitigation, said Bender.

“The issue is it’s not being regulated very well, and some of it’s open to interpretation,” Bender said.

In Kentucky’s rolling hills, he said, there’s water on almost every property. The good news is that it’s easy to work with Kentucky and local government, according to Bender.

“In general Northern Kentucky continues to be poised for continued job growth," Bender said. “Northern Kentucky continues to do a lot of things really well,… and most jurisdictions work really well together.”