Nov. 4--MONTICELLO -- The leaders of Monticello are enthusiastic about transforming a 100-acre tract into an industrial park.
"I think if it's handled right, it can be a real plus for Monticello," said city council member Chris Corrie. "We've got to bring new businesses into the community."
Monticello, a town of 5,200 in Piatt County, recently has attracted a large real estate development firm to oversee the project, Rosemont-based McShane Corp.
McShane executives, in Monticello for a ceremony to announce the proposed project, say they hope to build a large retail center. The distribution center would bring an estimated 200 to 400 jobs, as well as some work for subcontractors during the construction phase.
Floyd Allsop, Monticello superintendent of city services, said he believes the business could become the biggest employer in the county.
Allsop said the city has been involved in marketing the site for commercial development for the past eight years. It is located just northwest of the Interstate 72 exit at Market Street, adjacent to Lodge Park and Rick Ridings Ford-Mercury Inc.
The land, owned by the Tatman Trust, has been used as farmland to help build and support Tatman Village, a retirement community that opened in Monticello 24 years ago.
Allsop is optimistic that the farmland will be converted to something more profitable.
"This is pretty much a dream come true for us, as far as this parcel is concerned," Allsop said.
MaryJo Hetrick, Monticello's economic development director, said bringing in McShane and its broker, Dallas-based Trammel Crow Co., was the culmination of years of effort by local leaders.
A key factor in making the connection was timing. In recent years, McShane and Trammel Crow have established two other "Interstate Commerce Centers" in Illinois, industrial parks near interstate highways.
Hetrick said Trammel Crow was excited to discover the Monticello site.
"Trammel Crow wanted this land real bad," Hetrick said.
Thomas Barbera, vice president of Trammell Crow, said the other Interstate Commerce Centers are in Ottawa and the Quad-Cities area at the Iowa-Illinois border. McShane recently built a PetSmart distribution center at the Ottawa site.
Tony Pricco, vice president of McShane, said his company has completed drawings of two possible Monticello buildings, at 1 million and 750,000 square feet. He hopes the drawings and the site's proximity to the interstate will contribute to landing a company.
Sheri Tantari, marketing vice president for McShane, said her company has a two-year option contract with Tatman Trust for development and ownership of buildings on the site. McShane plans to construct, own and lease the building or buildings.
She said companies are looking for low entry-level costs. City officials have said the water and sewer lines are already in place.
Tantari said financial incentives, such as a tax increment financing district, are necessary to be competitive in attracting companies.
"The city is working toward a TIF district," Tantari said. "I can imagine it won't be much longer before they have all of that in place."
Under a TIF district, the assessed value of the property is calculated before development. Taxing districts, such as schools and the county continue to receive taxes based on that calculation. But the increase in tax revenue from any improvements goes into a special fund for infrastructure improvements for the development as well as incentives for the developer.
Piatt County Board member Sharon Martin said she believes the development could be positive for the county but is opposed to a TIF district.
"The county still receives tax dollars from the farmland," Martin said. "If they include it in a TIF district, the county would receive no additional tax dollars on improvements for 23 years."
Martin said she also has other reservations about the proposed development.
"If we receive no tax revenues for it, what would be the value to the county? I don't know. The unemployment rate in the county is very low right now."
Martin said she could support a project that brings in tax revenue.
"As an individual and county board member, I would like to see it happen, providing it goes on the tax rolls," Martin said.
She also expressed concerns about many trucks rolling along the adjacent state road, Old Route 47, which winds past a scenic county park and several subdivisions.
Pricco said the kind of business he hopes to attract would have 100 to 200 trucks loading and unloading each day. He thinks the trucks would mostly drive straight onto the interstate.
Hetrick said she thinks the development will be a win-win situation for Piatt County communities and the businesses involved.
"Any place needs workers," Hetrick said. "Hopefully, they will live in our community and shop in the community. They will have more children to make the schools viable. If you can put money in people's pockets, they are going to spend it in your community. If we have to do a TIF for that to happen, we'll do it."