A Towering Presence

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 19, 2008

Linbrook Business Park now has an enormous presence.

Brookhaven and Lincoln County moved one step closer to newindustry recruitment Thursday morning when the hull of themillion-gallon water tank was raised atop its concrete pedestal inthe park. And though much work remains to be done before the400-acre park is completed and ready to house industries, evidenceof the potential super-site west of Brookhaven is now plainlyvisible – very, very high in the air.

“We still have a good bit of work to do to finish the

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infrastructure, but we’re excited to know we have a visualpresence in the park now,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln County EconomicDevelopment Alliance Chairman Mike Jinks.

Jinks said contractor Landmark Structure of Fort Worth, Texasstill has to install the tank’s covering dome, a wrap-aroundwalkway, a warning light for air traffic and a few coats of paint,but the park’s ability to self-advertise is now firmly inplace.

On the tank’s north and south sides, the name of the park ispainted in huge, blue letters that are easily seen from BrookwayBoulevard and Interstate 55. The highly visible lettering serves asa psychological boon for the park’s supporters.

“It’s obvious – people will begin to realize, ‘Yeah, there’swork going on out there,'” Jinks said. “They’ll realize that’swhere the business park is, ride out there to see the tank and seewhat’s going on.”

Jinks said tank’s six-month, $1.5 million construction should becompleted by the end of next week. With the tank sealed, paintedand ready to hold water, further work – such as the installation ofa chlorination building and tying in water pipes – will benecessary before water can be brought from the park’s well forstorage.

Once the tank is operational, it will serve not only Linbrookbut also tie into the city water system on the western end of theboulevard.

Meanwhile, local contractor Oddee Smith and Sons, Inc. has begunwork on the park’s second major phase – the $2.5 millioninstallation of infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer linesand fiber optic conduit.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said both phases of construction arescheduled for completion around the summer of 2009. When complete,Linbrook will be ready to receive industries.

“It will be the most-developed new industrial park in our area,”Brumfield said. “The park is a serious investment for our communityand we intend for it to be a long-term player in the economicdevelopment of Brookhaven and Lincoln County.”

Brumfield said the effort to recruit new industries to the park- which began two years ago when the first land was purchased -would be enhanced by having the name “Linbrook” pasted above thecity’s skyline.

Brumfield has stated the park would be reserved primarily forhigher-paying industries that demonstrate stability. The targetnumber of jobs per industry is 400.

The job of recruiting industries may be more difficult now thanever before, as the national economy experiences day-to-dayuncertainty.

“We have to be realistic and know that at this point, althoughinfrastructure is under construction, it will take not only acompleted park but a completed park being marketed in a strongereconomy,” Brumfield said. “These somewhat tumultuous economic timesallow us to do our homework and get the park ready so that when theeconomy enters a stable phase and then a growth phase, we’ll bewell-poised to take advantage of new opportunities.”

Until the day of economic rebirth arrives, investment inLinbrook will continue.

Since the park was first visualized in the 1990s, approximately$6 million has gone into its development. The initial investmentswere made by the county and city governments at $2.2 million each,with the chamber of commerce offering up a further $500,000.

The three bodies working together – the partnership that grewinto the Alliance – landed another $1.1 million in federal fundingfor the park from the U.S. Department of Commerce EconomicDevelopment Administration.

For those who were around at the beginning – like Lincoln CountyChancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, who served as director of thechamber of commerce – Thursday’s raising of the tank was a bigboost for 10 years of work and investment.

“We have something to offer,” Bishop said. “We are back in thebusiness of recruiting industries because we have a place to putthem. The tower looks great, but it will look a whole lot betterwhen there are several businesses out there employing people for itto cast a shadow on.”