Rich Flowers | Athens Daily Review

You may not notice while going about your everyday routine, but some pretty ambitious companies are doing business in Athens. At the forefront are manufacturers that have sprung up over the past few years in the Athens Industrial Park.

The Athens Industrial Park, located not far from State Highway 31 on the eastern edge of the city has been the scene of innovative businesses in recent years.

The park is currently the home of Schneider Electric, FutureMatrix, Med-Logics, Howard Measurement, Steritec, Med Tex Converters and West Pharmaceutical.

Now, with the original Industrial Park developed, work is under way on Industrial Park Phase 2.

In 2013, Athens Economic Development Corporation was faced with a lack of suitable properties to attract businesses seeking to locate into the city.

A strategic plan was devised to help guide the AEDC going forward.

“This was part of the strategic plan, going forward, to be able to have control of property.” Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Lisa Denton said. “It is vital, because in this area we do not have a lot of existing buildings to offer clients.”

After about a year of searching and evaluating land, the AEDC found an ideal solution in two tracts of land, totaling about 98 acres just west of the existing industrial park.

At a cost of $859,500 a deal was struck for the property.

AEDC President/CEO at the time, Brian Malone said the pieces of land were attractive for a number of reasons.

Athens has its share of rolling hills and a large company needs plenty of space.

The relatively flat terrain of the land can be an asset for a manufacturer wishing to relocate to the city, or an existing plant to expand.

Another huge advantage of the tracts was the availability of utilities running up to the property.

“In my years of economic development, we’re blessed to have more utilities on line, more utilities next door than you can imagine,” Malone said. “I’ve developed sites of 350 acres that had no utilities and those can be quite challenging.”

The AEDC decided to approach development of the property in two phases.

The north portion, covering about 20 acres, was chosen to be prepared first.

The board approved $409,632 from Timberline Construction of Lufkin for the streets, and a bid of $227,223 from Duplichain Contractors of Alto to construct the water and sewer lines.

“It gives us some good assets to go out and let them know that we do have areas for them to locate their business,” Denton said. “That's kind of our raw land inventory, aside from at the airport.”

Denton said it's important for AEDC to have the property ready to go when a potential business is located for the park.

“Consultants and businesses really want to see the EDC having control of it, so they know they're not going to go through the phase one environmentals. Those are done,” Denton said.

Enterprise Drive, which connects the original Industrial Park to Farm-to-Market Road 1616, has been extended to the west to access the north part of Phase 2.

“The future plan was intended to finish that road and eventually bring it on back around to 1616,” Denton said. “We're going to have to get some businesses in and sell some property to be able to fund that. We would also come in later to access the south property with another road that can be extended out to Old Tyler Highway.”

The roads would provide additional entrance and exit points for the Industrial Park, which has been an issue,” Denton said.