Plan calls for business park revolving around recyclables
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:58 p.m.
A recyclable-centric business park planned for east Gainesville is still in early development, but it could generate jobs boasting solid pay and benefits for local residents without advanced degrees.
The Alachua County Resource Recovery Park would offer a home to businesses that create products from recycled materials. These companies could purchase material processed at the county's Leveda Brown Environmental Park, which is located across the road from the eventual location of the business park, said Sally Palmi, the county's solid waste director.
The park would be a closed-loop system, where businesses take recyclable materials collected in the county and elsewhere, turn them into a marketable product and send them back out into the community for sale.
"It's not really a new concept, but it's one that's just really becoming innovative around the country," Palmi said.
The property the county has purchased for the resource recovery park covers 70 to 75 acres, of which it would offer 35 to 40 acres of usable space for businesses, Palmi said. Some of the land will be maintained as a preservation area for the gopher tortoise population that now lives on the acreage.
Businesses using recyclables that are harder or more expensive for the county to manage, such as glass and old tires, would be especially attractive operations to establish in the park, she said. It would also diminish the county's fuel costs since delivering recyclables to a business park across the road is cheaper than driving them to Tampa or other cities.
There is already a concept plan for the park, which was developed in partnership with the University of Florida College of Design, Construction and Planning during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Now, the county is working with a consultant to assess the preliminary cost estimates for the site's basic infrastructure needs, she said. It is also considering what kinds of companies would be good matches for the park.
The idea for a resource recovery park has been a long-term plan for years, but the economic downturn put it and other projects on hold, said Sean McLendon, the county's sustainability program manager. The county is working with Santa Fe College and others on the plan.
Within a year, the county should have its infrastructure needs for roads, stormwater and other issues mapped out, he said. Then it can seek the County Commission's input and establish a more firm timeline for creating the park.
The park will complement, rather than compete with, the Gainesville-based innovation economy by providing a testing ground for some of those companies' ideas, McLendon said.
It will offer jobs that don't require a Ph.D., which will provide opportunities for a key sector of the community.
"It's fantastic that we have a university base here and all of the entrepreneurial skill-sets that come with it, but there's a big part of the community that doesn't have that expertise but still deserves a place and an opportunity to grow their own potential," he said.
The park will bring manufacturing and assembly jobs that typically pay at or above the county's median hourly wage — $16.21 per hour, depending on how it's calculated — and offer benefits, said Edgar Campa-Palafox, the county's economic development coordinator. These jobs will offer opportunities to people without college degrees.
The park could be a catalyst for bringing more development to east Gainesville, Campa-Palafox said. The county also plans to create another business park at the current Alachua County Fairgrounds site after the fairgrounds are relocated, which will likely incorporate companies from a variety of industries.
The Weseman Tract, a county-owned property originally slated to become the new fairgrounds site, is being considered for use as an extension of the resource recovery park instead, if the fairgrounds is relocated to the Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, also known as the Gainesville Raceway, McLendon said. The idea has received positive feedback during previous community discussions, and it seems like it could be a "natural extension" of the park, he said.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or email@example.com.