HEDCOR Has Come Full Circle

July 26, 2004
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HOLLAND — After more than four decades in business, the Holland Economic Development Corp. has returned to the sole role of land developer.

To avoid redundancy with the regional organization Lakeshore Advantage formed early this year, HEDCOR gave up the economic development functions it had ventured into in recent years. That has left HEDCOR to focus only on marketing industrial properties, a role the organization first took on in 1962.

“We’re back to our roots, really. Back to basics,” said Jane Clark, president of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce and secretary of HEDCOR’s board of directors.

Created in 1962 by a group of local business leaders to diversify Holland’s industrial base, HEDCOR over the years has developed two major industrial parks that today cover a collective 1,150 acres and are home to more than 70 manufacturing companies employing some 16,000 people.

Among the firms are some of the Holland area’s most venerable employers.

The Southside Industrial Park, developed in the mid-1960s, is the larger of the two and began with the acquisition of 100 acres of farmland on the city’s southeast side.

The industrial park’s first large tenant was LifeSavers, which opened a new factory in Holland in 1967. The company closed the plant in 2002.

As land in the surrounding area of the Southside Industrial Park became scarce during the 1980s, HEDCOR acquired additional acreage on the other side of town and opened the Northside Industrial Park in 1987 in Holland Township.

The Northside Park covers 535 acres along the western side of U.S. 31.

In the late 1990s, as labor markets tightened with the soaring economy and the emergence of global competition, HEDCOR started to change.

The organization delved into work-force development and job training, and employer retention and recruitment — activities that this year Lakeshore Advantage was formed to handle from a broader, more regional perspective.

HEDCOR presently has 120 acres of industrial land available in the Northside Industrial Park and earlier this year retained two commercial real estate firms in Holland — Woodland Realty and Focus Properties — to market the properties.

The site already has roads, sewer and water service, and public utilities.

“It’s all ready to go,” Clark said of the available industrial parcels.

HEDCOR’s most recent land sale was to the Holland Bar Stool Co., which constructed a new facility facing U.S. 31, near Greenley Street.

In retaining Woodland Realty and Focus Properties, HEDCOR directors wanted to bring in outside help to market the remaining parcels.

HEDCOR is managed under an administrative contract with the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce, which has handled sales and marketing

“We thought we should bring in the experts,” said Jeff Elhart, HEDCOR board chairman. “They have the marketing wherewithal and the experts.”

As the remaining acreage in Northside Industrial Park is sold off — a process estimated at five to seven years — HEDCOR directors eventually will need to examine and decide upon a future role for the organization.

Clouding the future is a role private developers have increasingly taken over the past several years in developing industrial land and industrial parks. As a nonprofit organization, HEDCOR does not want to compete with private developers of industrial properties, Elhart said.

“We don’t know what the future will hold but certainly it’s a different world than it was 42 years ago,” Elhart said. “There are more players in the game than before HEDCOR was formed.”

At a minimum, both Clark and Elhart see HEDCOR continuing to support economic development in some form and maintaining the existing Southside and Northside industrial parks.

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