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FOOL US -- TWICE?! REDI's Ewing Industrial Park falls into foreclosure -- for second time!

Despite every incentive imaginable, high-profile project flops
 
COLUMBIA, 5/30/12 (Beat Byte) -- One of the area's most highly-touted economic development projects, the Ewing Industrial Park has fallen into foreclosure -- for a second time!
 
Promises of a $1 billion dollar cash infusion into the Columbia economy routinely accompanied Ewing sales pitches. One of the state's first "certified" shovel-ready industrial sites, the 200-acre northeast Columbia property has been the focus of virtually every major economic development tool, from tax abatements to special infrastructure to the Henry J. Waters bully pulpit.
 
"Those who yearn for economic development in and around our fair city have good reason to focus on data centers," Waters wrote in a July 2010 Columbia Daily Tribune editorial, one of several he penned praising the project. "Reportedly two substantial projects are possible candidates for construction in Ewing Industrial Park northeast of town, where infrastructure was purposely built to encourage new companies."
 
The first foreclosure notices appeared last November, with Ewing owner Grindstone Investments, LLC disputing their authenticity while bank representatives reaffirmed. The second notices appeared this May, offering the Ewing Industrial Park "to the highest bidder for cash, at the South front door of the Boone County Courthouse, in the city of Columbia, Boone County, Missouri, on Tuesday, May 29, 2012."
 
Word is the bank bought back the property, but nothing else has been written about this latest failure.  After covering the Ewing story with gusto over the years, no stories about this second foreclosure -- advertised more than two weeks ago -- have yet appeared that this writer could find.
 
The Ewing Park's failure certainly isn't for lack of incentives. In March 2010, the Columbia City Council passed an ordinance targeted at Ewing to allow bulk energy sales to large energy users such as data centers, long presumed Ewing's best chance for survival. In December 2010, Boone County Commissioners revised Chapter 100 tax incentive policies so data centers could receive hefty tax abatements.
 
REDI officials -- now pushing the EEZ/blight incentive -- followed the super-charged incentives with cagey announcements about "Project Unicorn" and "Project Liberty," out-of-state companies supposedly eyeing Ewing that never materialized.
 
"The idea was that if you designate a parcel of land on the outskirts of the city with all kinds of incentives, including a 100 percent abatement on the personal property taxes, a 50 percent abatement of the real estate taxes, chapter 100 bonds, and cut-rate electricity, businesses such as data centers will scramble to locate there," said Bruce Alspaugh, whose family owns land near the industrial park.
 
But bad fundamentals, including poorly-maintained gravel roads, inadequate sewers, and a location next to the city dump all conspired against the project.
 
"To extend the sewer would require building a five mile sewer line that crosses the endangered Hinkson Creek six times at a cost of over nine million dollars of public money," said Alspaugh, who has followed the project closely. "A grant that was supposed to upgrade the gravel roads went elsewhere, and the state legislature refused to extend the additional tax incentives REDI wanted for data centers. The end result is that the data center went to North Carolina, and no one else wanted to move in either."
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