CALDWELL — As Caldwell has succeeded in attracting manufacturing and warehousing businesses, a potential problem has cropped up.
The city is running out of industrial-zoned property, Caldwell Economic Development Director Steve Fultz said.
“It’s not pressing today, but it is of concern for the future,” Fultz said. “Probably the short-range future.”
The situation isn’t isolated to Caldwell. Nampa could end up in a similar situation. And while Canyon County is ripe for more industrial businesses to move in, more planning may need to be done to accommodate that growth.
In the meantime, Fultz is highlighting the lack of land set aside for industrial use.
“Our biggest challenge right now is we’re running low on land,” Fultz told the city’s urban renewal agency board on March 8. “We really don’t have a lot of land to really show anymore for the projects, for the size of the projects that are coming in. We are showing what we have and even some things that we’re not really sure we can have.”
Industrial land is usually used for manufacturing, warehousing and contractors. It’s valuable, Fultz said, because this type of development frequently leads to jobs that pay above average wages. That aligns with the city’s goal of being a place to both work and live, so having a strong industrial base is attractive.
Caldwell has been successful with the Sky Ranch Business Park, which has attracted several industrial businesses in recent years with involvement from the urban renewal agency. Large employers in Sky Ranch include Johnson Thermal Systems, Capitol Distributing and Fresca Mexican Foods. Another development, North Ranch Business Park, is being built in the same area near Highway 20/26 and Smeed Parkway. North Ranch has 114 acres, zoned for industrial and flex use, which helps against the shortage.
“But there seems to be a demand for even more,” Fultz said, “that we’re going to be seeing coming here probably in the next year to five years.”
Mike Peña, a partner for the commercial real estate group Colliers International, has researched the shrinking available industrial space. According to his data, in the first quarter of 2019 there was an industrial vacancy rate of 2.51% in Canyon County and 3.27% in Ada County. He described those as healthy, low numbers.
By the fourth quarter of 2020, Peña said the industrial vacancy rate in Ada County had grown to 4.91%, still a reasonably good number. In Canyon County, it decreased to 2.14%, with demand outweighing the space available, he said.
“The lifeblood of an economy is industrial, in my opinion,” Peña said. “You look at warehousing, manufacturing and our small contractors. When we have those low vacancy rates, that means all those businesses are doing strong, which typically in most cases says that you have a healthy economy.”
A potential solution to the lack of industrial land is making zoning changes to accommodate the high demand. In both Caldwell’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan and Nampa’s Future Land Use Map, land is designated for industrial use.
At the moment, though, that land doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to attract industrial users, Fultz said. Since manufacturers are heavy users of water, sewer, power and other resources, figuring out where to locate industrial land is a key question. Fultz added that Caldwell’s planners don’t want to intrude on agricultural land.
Peña described the Treasure Valley as being in “hyper-growth mode.” That’s spilling into industrial land use, too. And these factors are pointing to changes that could be made.
“It’s probably something we need to take a look at and address,” Fultz said.