MANSFIELD — Following millions in investment by the state and local funds, the I-99 business and commerce park created by the Betterment Organization of Mansfield is just waiting for the right businesses to move in.
BOOM vice-president Tom Freeman sat down to discuss the future of the park, located on the former Ed Dorsett farm off Route 6 and Route 15, soon to become Interstate-99.
The idea for a park began to take shape in 2003 after then Greater Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce member Alex Nadalini suggested the community needed to create “underpinnings” on which future and current businesses could be developed.
Freeman was president of chamber of commerce and BOOM at the time.
“Alex worked for First Citizens and what he was suggesting was more than the chamber could do, so we took it to BOOM,” Freeman said.
Nadalini said BOOM ought to ”look for a parcel that we can promote and develop.”
“He looked into the tax base in Tioga County and we all got together and started looking for parcels,” Freeman said.
After looking around on Business Route 15, they thought about the Dorsett farm on the intersection of 6 and 15.
“But access was nonexistent. The only other access was a dirt road off Brooklyn Street coming from Richmond Township, and we weren’t sure we could afford to build a bridge,” he said.
Dorsett, who lives in Massachusetts, said he had a real passion to see the 80 plus acre parcel become something that would leave a legacy for the community, and he agreed to sell the parcel, Freeman said.
By then it was 2004 and a year had gone by.
“The highway had come through and split his farm. The upper side was already sold, the west side of 15, and that left him stuck with this piece of property that was located in borough and kind of land-locked for commercial purposes. We asked if we could option it for a dollar for three years on the promise that anything we created, survey documents, maps and lot plans, if it didn’t work for us, he would own them,” he added.
The next issue was finding funding to do all the preliminary site work.
“BOOM had $90,000 and that was all we had to work with and we were loaning it out for small business loans, so we had to be pretty frugal,” Freeman said.
“We were told we would never get grant money as one municipality, we needed a multi-municipal plan, so we worked with all the surrounding townships with the help of Kathy Halstead, the wife of former MU president John Halstead,” he said.
“With assistance from the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission and the Tioga County Development Corps, we got a $100,000 Department of Economic Development grant for a study to see if what we wanted to do was feasible. So our seed money got through that process,” he added.
In 2005, BOOM received a three million dollar 50/50 matching grant through DCED.
“NTRPDC wrote the grant for us, if not for them, that business park wouldn’t exist,” Freeman said
The park started out with 25 lots in 2008. The idea phase started in 2003. “We had envisioned 28 parcels we at that point, which turned into 25,” Freeman said.
Out of the 25, eight lots have been sold and six developed and businesses located there.
Now located at the park is Microtel, Hampton Inn and Suites, Perkins Family Restaurant and Bakery, then Renegade Natural Gas Services, Stepping Stones Day Care, and the Bradford-Tioga Housing Authority headquarters after that.
In 2013, two private land developers bought the park, and according to Freeman, “overpriced the lots,” and nothing happened.
After the development company went bankrupt BOOM bought the park back from C&N Bank in 2015.
“Our mission was to create a tax base for Mansfield Borough and to provide jobs, so when we took it back we felt like we were rolling the dice in order to fulfill our mission,” Freeman said.
Pricing on the lots vary depending on lot size and location, Freeman explained, running from $84,000 to $400,000, depending on size and location.”
Part of the park is zoned commercial and some zoned residential low density with nine acre lots.
“These are shovel ready lots with sewer, water, electric, phone, fiberoptic cable and even storm water management,” Freeman said.
BOOM is working with local organizations, businesses and agencies to promote the business park including Develop Tioga (formerly TCDC) and Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission.
“The park has had a pretty big impact to the tune of around $10 million investment in the community before one shovel of dirt was even turned over,” Freeman said, adding “It also contributes to the tax base for the borough and Tioga County.”
For more information about the I-99 Business Park of BOOM, contact the Greater Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce at 570-662-3442.