Oldham Reserve unlikely to impact 2008 county budget

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By Elizabeth Troutman

The county’s investment in Oldham Reserve, a business and retail campus designed to promote economic development in Oldham County, was scheduled to cut into the 2008 county budget.But county financial officers plan to postpone a payment scheduled for Dec. 1 through refinancing, which will keep the payments from affecting the budget for as much as five years. The first phase of development, which includes construction of the 4,000-foot Eden Parkway and the boulevard entrance to the campus, was completed in October. The arrival of The Rawlings Group in October also marked the first business to open on the campus. Oldham County Fiscal Court and La Grange City Council are splitting the cost of Oldham Reserve evenly, and in 2005 each borrowed $10 million in bonds to pay for the project. However, as land is sold to investors, the county and city are relieved of costs for developing Oldham Reserve. Joe Schoenbaechler, executive director of Oldham County Economic Development Authority, said the 1,000 acres purchased by the county for Oldham Reserve has increased in value since it was purchased. The city and county governments intend to collect a profit from business investors when it is sold. “The business community from outside Oldham County is beginning to recognize La Grange and Oldham County as an attractive location within the Metro market,” Schoenbaechler said. He added that the value of the land has risen because of improvements in infrastructure, including road ways and utilities. OCEDA officials are negotiating with prospective investors in Louisville, though businesses from outside the state have also expressed interest, Schoenbaechler said.  With the sale of 67 acres to The Rawlings Group, which reduced the original $5 million payment by $1.3 million, the county and the city of La Grange will share the first payment of about $1.9 million each. Ideally, when the land is sold, the bonds are balanced. As businesses commit to buying land in Oldham Reserve, the financial obligation of La Grange and the county will be easier to handle. Schoenbaechler said refinancing the payments may permit time for land sales to jump up, which will reduce the financial burden of local governments. He said when a government makes an investment in the future it must also take in account the risks involved. Schoenbaechler said he believes the investors will turn up with time, thought it may take more than 10 years. He said with the arrival of The Rawlings Group and negotiations with several prospective investors, he feels confident the non-traditional campus will prove a worthwhile investment for both the city and the county. “We’re offering a different type of campus in a different but not so far away location,” Schoenbaechler said. Dennis Johnson, who has served on the OCEDA board for seven years, said economic development is imperative to the future of Oldham County, noting that the county needs to create a larger tax base. He called The Rawlings Group an “anchor” for Oldham Reserve. “There’s a lot of prospects out there right now,” Johnson said. Johnson said it can take several years to see a vision become reality in the county. He stressed that OCEDA does not communicate success of the project to county residents because prospective businesses prefer keeping interest under the radar until a sale is official. “These things don’t happen overnight,” Johnson said. “You have to invest a lot of time and effort.”

E-mail us about this story at: elizabeth@oldhamera.com.