Empty Buildings Can Equal Economic Growth

JONESBORO, AR--First impressions count. As you drive into town on US 63 one of the first things greeting you to Jonesboro is an empty industrial building.

While the empty site isn't an indicator of Jonesboro's thriving economy, it is a key to future growth.

While Jonesboro sees industrial growth, the Haworth building and the old GE plant are empty. Will these sites thrive once again or are they just stuck gathering cobwebs?

"They have tremendous potential to be filled. About 60% of all the projects that look at our area, first look at an existing facility," said Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Young.

The 600,000 square foot Haworth building has sat empty now for almost 3 years. According to those with Haworth, the building itself is in good condition and they have come close several times to finding a buyer; however as of now, the plant sits empty.

"Part of it is the size of the building. It's over 600,000 square feet. What you'll find is the number of companies that need 600,000 square feet is somewhat limited," said Young.

He says even though sites like Haworth and GE sit vacant, they are still an important of future growth.

"Existing facilities really serve as a draw for us. For some reason if those facilities don't meet their needs, certainly we try to talk to them about our industrial park," said Young.

In fact, Alberto Culver first came to Jonesboro to look at the Haworth plant. When they found out it didn't meet their needs, they still liked the area and decided to build on their own site.

With 60% of companies looking at existing sites, empty buildings both large and small are crucial to future growth.

"It's important that we have places to put those companies in, whether that is a company that needs a 40,000 square foot facility or one that needs 600,000," said Young.

The Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce remains active in finding new tenants for the empty buildings. They advertise the buildings on their website and receive a number of calls about the buildings each week.

Young says it's just a matter of time before the Haworth building has a new tenant, it's just a matter of matching the building with a businesses needs.