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SOD Center chief cites need for industrial space

SALEM — With seven outside companies considering moves to Salem, finding viable industrial space is a high priority, according to Julie Needs.

Needs serves as the executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, which oversees economic development activities for the city.

“We have a growing need for facilities in Salem,” she said.

Needs talked about the availability of industrial properties during her report to city council’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday night. A cataloging of properties showed there are 80 industrial buildings in the city, with 71 occupied, six on the market for sale or lease and three just sitting idle.

The six properties available are older facilities with some issues related to flow, access to technology or other problems that would require upgrading or possibly a consideration to tear down and build new on a site.

The companies looking for sites for expansion need anywhere from 10,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet. There are also three local companies already here looking for expansion space.

“This is a major priority,” she said.

Needs also reviewed the city’s economic development plan, providing a list of strategies and initiatives for this year. Out of 12 strategies and 31 initiatives for year one, eight strategies and 19 initiatives are in process or already completed, including the incentive tool kit that shows what exists and what the state has to offer and can be used by council members, the administration and SOD Center.

Eva Slagle, the SOD Center Training Center and Downtown Development Coordinator, was introduced to the committee. Needs said she’s been visiting downtown businesses and talking to downtown building owners to learn their challenges. Something she learned was that they feel neglected and kind of left out. Another challenge is dealing with permitting issues and the state building department.

“The vibrancy of your downtown is important,” she said.

That’s something companies look at when deciding whether to locate in a community. A seminar is being put together for downtown businesses and building owners on facade improvement. Sidewalks also came up as a topic during the conversations, for sidewalks not being cleaned up in front of vacant properties.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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