Earlier this week, the River Ridge Development Authority, which operates the 6,000-acre River Ridge Commerce Center in Southern Indiana, received megasite certification for more than 1,500 acres inside the business park, which River Ridge executive director Jerry Acy has said will be marketed for a major tenant, such as an automaker.

McCallum Sweeney Consulting officially certified the site, which was based on rigorous standards for an automaker.

The authority has been pursuing the certification for a few years and believes it could fast track the development of River Ridge. Current estimates say it could take up to 20 years or longer to fully develop the park.

A megasite is a large, contiguous tract of land that’s marketed for major manufacturing or industrial developments, and the certification ensures potential buyers that due dilligence items have already been completed, making it cheaper to develop.

Acy earlier this week said that there have been some inquiries about the site but no serious offers yet. If no single tenant buys the property within three or four years, River Ridge could potentially break the site down into smaller, less-expensive parcels.

When reached by Louisville Business First Wednesday morning, Acy said River Ridge officials are still going through the megasite certification letter and likely will be releasing more details to the public Thursday.

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, the chamber of commerce and economic development agency for Clark and Floyd counties, told Business First Wednesday that the certification immediately boosts River Ridge’s reputation to businesses on a national level.

“It adds a fantastic amount of credibility to that site,” she said. “Companies that are looking for communities and sites that can more easily meet their needs in their shortened time frame are likely to be more interested in this certification.”

Beyond that, it makes her job promoting River Ridge and Southern Indiana a little easier. And with River Ridge officials showing a willingness to eventually divide up the land into smaller parcels if a large tenant does not appear feasible, it will give them more flexibility with their options.

“Quite frankly, it gives us another attribute to market to site selectors and job creators as we (promote) our region,” she said.

Of course, megasite certification does not immediately spell success for a property.

Less than an hour south of Louisville, in Hardin County, sits an empty 1,551-acre megasite in the Glendale area. That property has had some prospects but no takers yet. While in a rural setting, it sits close to Interstate 65 and the CSX rail line.

It could be argued that River Ridge’s megasite has a few more natural advantages, with its proximity to Louisville and heightened road access coming with the completion of the Ohio River Bridges project next year.

But instead of the Hardin County megasite prompting concerns, Chesser said having two megasites in one region could actually benefit both locations and will likely lead to more second looks for the Louisville region in general.

“We’re going to get more at bats” because there are two in the area, she said.

Rick Games, president and COO of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation, which promotes Hardin County’s megasite, said they continue to host discussions with potential clients for the site, though nothing yet has materialized.

“We’re always looking for that client, and that’s something we do continuously,” Games said.

As for the addition of a megasite in River Ridge, he simply said “the more the merrier.”

Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial real estate, government, education and sports business.

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