As the directors of the not-for-profit economic development organization formulate a new strategic plan for the future, there is the possibility of getting out of the land development business.
As private developers take a larger role in Holland in preparing and offering industrial sites for manufacturers, and with other areas in the economic development game needing more attention, HEDCOR’s directors will weigh eliminating the acquisition and development of land for industrial uses from its mission.
“The overriding feeling is that if private developers are doing this and doing it well, HEDCOR can take its resources and put it into other areas that are more strategic for us at this point,” HEDCOR President Chris Byrnes said.
Workforce development and industry recruitment and retention are two areas where HEDCOR could place more emphasis if it chooses to leave the acquisition and preparation of industrial land for others to handle.
Created in the mid-1960s by a group of local business leaders to diversify Holland’s industrial base, HEDCOR over the years developed two major industrial parks that today cover a collective 1,150 acres and are home to more than 70 manufacturing companies that employ more than 16,000 people.
The South Side Industrial Park, developed in the mid-1960s, is the larger of the two, and began with the acquisition of 100 acres of farmland on the city’s south side. The industrial park’s first large tenant was LifeSavers, which opened in 1967 and is now in the process of phasing out operations of its Holland candy plant.
HEDCOR began planning for a new industrial park in the 1980s as available land in the surrounding area of the South Side Industrial Park became scarce. The North Side Industrial Park, along the western side of U.S. 31 in Holland Township, opened in 1987 and now covers 535 acres.
Consideration of altering HEDCOR’s focus and mission comes as plans are under way to prepare the final 100 acres the organization owns in the North Side Industrial Park. The extension of sewer and water lines and construction of roads within the area, located along U.S. 31 and south of New Holland Street, will cost an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million and will open another 93 acres for industrial development, Byrnes said.
The change in focus also would further elevate workforce development as a primary focus of HEDCOR, which three years ago adopted a strategic plan that stated the organization would “act as a champion” in working with area employers to plan and organize employee training and help them recruit the talent they need.
“Some of the cutting edge thinking out there right now is that you don’t recruit companies, you recruit people,” Byrnes said.