By Carol McIntire
January 15, 2013
Members of the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) stopped short of voting to break a contract with the Texas company in charge of developing the Carroll County Commerce Park, but did express extreme displeasure over the company’s performance to date.
During a meeting Thursday afternoon, CIC members told Kyle Robertson, managing director, development at Mages Corporation, they are unhappy with the company’s efforts to market the Commerce Park and are prepared to break the contract if they do not see proof of their efforts.
The CIC signed a five-year agreement with Mages in March 2012 to develop about 278 acres of land in the Commerce Park, located on the north side of Carrollton on State Route 9.
CIC members noted the only development that has taken place in the park has been generated locally. McJunkin Red Man signed an agreement to purchase land prior to the Mages agreement and a new company looking to build an electricity generating facility worked through Glenn Enslen, the county’s economic development director.
Robertson, who said he has been on the job about six months, said he is involved in the development, not the marketing department, and, if the CIC was willing to give him some time, he would review the company’s efforts and submit a detailed report.
“When we signed the agreement with Mages we were told we had everything to offer,” said CIC Member Jeff Ohler who is also president of the Board of County Commissioners. “My disappointment centers around the former Mages official who told us we could have as many as 10 clients by the end of this year. Well, we don’t.”
Ohler said he was “very disappointed” when he received the report from Mages on the company looking to build the electricity generating facility.
“The report said the company had an option to purchase 50 acres ‘as is’ and that Mages would collect $500,000 of the $750,000 sale price for the land,” he said. Under the terms of the contract with Mages, any companies purchasing land would pay $15,000 per acre; $5,000 for the land to the CIC and $10,000 for Mages for development of driveways, etc.
“How can Mages take $500,000 when they didn’t even bring the client to the table and, since the land is being purchased ‘as is’, they don’t plan to spend any of that money to improve anything?” Ohler asked.
“We are trying to do this right for our county,” he continued looking directly at Robertson. “Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and we are now wondering if we did the right thing. As the new guy on the block, you are going to have to do a darn good job to show me we didn’t make a mistake in selecting Mages. Honestly, right now if I had a way to click my heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and go home and end this agreement, I would.”
Member Aaron Dodds brought another situation involving Mages into the discussion.
“There was another company that wanted to lease three acres in the Commerce Park. Mages came back and made the monthly lease payment so high they couldn’t afford it, “ Dodds stated. “Luckily, they were able to lease another facility in Carrollton and we didn’t lose them.”
Tom Wheaton, another county commissioner who is also a member of the CIC, was just as harsh with his words.
“In my mind, you guys are a total failure,” he said. “You have not done your job; you have not fulfilled your obligation to us.”
Gary Hall said he felt the same way.
“We were led to believe Mages had inroads with the oil and gas industry and could sell the park,” he said. “What efforts have you made to market our land?”
Robertson said they are working with a real estate agent in Tuscarawas County, Mike Durbin.
Wheaton pointed out Durbin is a member of the Tuscarawas County Port Authority, which is in competition with Carroll County for the same type of businesses.
“Why would he want to sell land in Carroll County when he can sell land in Tuscarawas County? It’s like you put an enemy in there to work for us.”
Robertson told the group marketing the land “is a challenge because of the topography.
“There’s a lot of dirt that has to be moved and that translates into money for the company buying the land,” he said. “Also, the major businesses are gravitating toward the Interstate 77. It’s not in the main market area and that makes it a challenge to market.”
He also said the site plan in place today “is not a good plan.”
“It needs to be changed,” he said.
CIC members took exception to all the comments.
“We may not be near 77, but we are the hub of the drilling,” Wheaton stated. “Why would someone want to locate a business near the interstate and then have to drive 40 minutes to get t the heart of the oil and gas play? We may not have a four-lane highway but we have very good tw-lane state highways going out of Carrollton in each direction.
Ohler said the Mages was well aware of the topography when they initially signed the contract and it hasn’t changed since them.
“We don’t want to hear what’s wrong with our product,” said Commissioner Bob Wirkner. “Your company developed the plan and you are suppose to be the ones pitching it.”
Robertson said Mages does present the Commerce Park as a great product.
“However, I think we need to talk about it and improve it,” he said. “All I can say is I am the new guy on the block. If you want to sit down and work on the plan, I will. If Mages didn’t believe in the site, they wouldn’t have come up here from Texas and made a pitch to develop it. It all comes down to what you want to do.”
Ohler asked for a motion to send Robertson back to Mages with the message the CIC wishes to sever the contract and find out what steps need to be taken.
Bill Wohlwend suggested the group read the contract closely “so any action we take doesn’t come back to bite us in the butt.”
Dodds said he felt Mages should have the opportunity to show the CIC what the company has been doing.
“Maybe they are doing something to market it we don’t know about,” he said. “I think we should give them a chance to show us why we should retain them.”
“I feel we should get that information from Mages and then decide what action we want to take,” added Hall.
Members asked Robertson to also submit a detailed marketing plan that covers the next year by Jan. 25 to Enslen along with the written report about the company’s actions to date to market the land