The 18 acre parcel of property on Whiting Farms Road has been at the center of some debate. The parcel is currently zoned for IP, which allows for industrial use. As most are aware the current zone change proposal would allow for commercial use of the property by right. The property is owned by Holyoke Gas and Electric whom with the help of the Holyoke Economic Development and Industrial Corporation have aggressively marketed the property for some 20 years as industrial use. Actions taken include the development of marketing brochures specific to the property, placement in New England Real Estate journals, formal solicitations to developers across the United States, and listed on the city’s property inventory list which is distributed to developers and interested parties seeking to locate to the city. Although the most desired development of the property, there has been little interest and inquiries for industrial use to date.
Manufacturing and industrial jobs have been migrating out of the Northeast Region for several years. As costs of labor and raw materials have increased, jobs have been lost overseas to China, India and other countries where manufacturing costs can improve profit margins. The manufacturing industry that has remained within the United States has moved south, where cheaper production and operational costs allow businesses to compete with foreign competitors. Manufacturing jobs are not as prevalent as they once were. These businesses provided a strong industrial base for much of the northeastern United States. Therefore, cities that once possessed a strong manufacturing base have been forced to adapt to the loss of manufacturing jobs and the realization that these much desired jobs are no longer a commodity in the region.
So, it not a result of a lack of effort that the property has not been able to attract manufacturing jobs, it is simply an issue of the changing times. If the city had a manufacturer ready to break ground on the property and bring much desirable jobs, Grow Holyoke would be all for the opportunity. However, the 18 acre parcel on Whiting Farms Road has remained dormant and a non revenue producing parcel for far too long. There is now an opportunity to bring a Fortune 50 company to the site. A company that brings stability and financial backing that ensures success in their investments. Contrast this to manufacturers that are vulnerable to the sudden swings in energy prices, increasing costs of raw materials, and uncertainty in the future economy; the stability of a successful company will ensure that their business will be around in 5, 10, 20 years and not leaving an eye soar of an abandoned site.
The zone change of the 18 acre parcel is an opportunity to generate revenue, jobs, and stability from a property that has remained vacant for years. The alternative is to leave the property vacant, clutching to the hopes of a miracle that one day a manufacturer will knock on the city’s door and ask to move to the property. Until that day comes, the city will continue on with the missed chance for revenue and jobs that are all so needed. Now we ask, what is really in the best interest of the city?
Contact your members of the city council and tell them how you feel. They need to hear your support. The vote is up to them, but they need to hear it from you. Let’s help Grow Holyoke.