State officials are giving an $8.4 million boost to plans for an innovation park in Columbia.
- The Lancaster County borough is collecting a grant of nearly $3.4 million and a loan of just over $5 million to help cover the costs of developing the McGinness Innovation Park on the site of a former airport in the borough.
- “We are very excited about this award,” said borough manager Mark Stivers.
- The money is coming from Pennsylvania’s Business in Our Sites program through a partnership between the borough and EDC Finance Corp., an arm of the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County.
- “The Business In Our Sites funding is a huge boost to this significant and impactful project,” Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Co., said in a statement. “We are excited to continue the strong collaboration with the borough of Columbia and the many other partners who see the potential for this notable tract of land.”
What difference does it make: The grant and loan likely provide the last bit of funding needed to make the roughly $12 million park a reality, according to Stivers.
- The borough owns most of the land for the nearly 58-acre park after buying it for $1.5 million last year from the McGinness family trust.
- However, it still needs to buy a tract of less than an acre to complete the site, Stivers said. He expects to finalize a deal for the parcel later this year.
- The state provided an additional $3 million for the project in a capital budget enacted in June, Stivers said.
And then what: The borough would begin the process of putting the land together as one parcel and splitting off slivers that aren’t needed for the innovation park.
- Stivers expects to wrap that up this year and then start working on plans to ready the property for private developers.
- Those plans would include laying in roads and other infrastructure.
Are developers interested: Stivers said he has fielded inquiries and is confident developers will materialize once the park is ready for new construction.
- “I have no doubt that we will be able to fill those lots,” he said. “There’s such a need for industrial land here in Lancaster County.”
- One likely user is DR1 Group, a regional nonprofit focused on research, training and development for unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, in Central Pennsylvania.
- “We’re definitely looking within the next 24 months to be able to start some operations out there,” said Todd Kishpaugh, a board member at DR1 who has worked for a drone company in Lititz.
The bottom line: Columbia officials have been banking on the innovation park to give the borough an economic lift.