Sign of the times: vacant industrial space

Vacant industrial space in Knoxville and Knox County increased in 2009, due in large part to the closing of several manufacturing plants, according to Metropolitan Planning Commission’s 2009 Industrial Space Inventory released today.

Vacancy rates for industrial space rose to 14.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from a vacancy rate of 11.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, MPC reported.

From 2007-2009, a total of more than 1.1 million square feet of industrial space was vacated. That number will grow this year as about 315,000 square feet of space are expected to become vacant with the closing of two manufacturers, MPC reported.

Several aera manufacturers were hit hard by the recession, forcing the closing of plants the layoff of thousands of workers.

Two of the largest operations that have shut down or are in the process of closing are Sea Ray Boats’ Riverview Plant, which once employed several hundred workers is being sold by parent company Brunswick Corp.; and auto parts maker PBR Knoxville, which plans to start laying off workers this month and close its plant in WestBridge Business Park in West Knox County by the end of 2010.

Not all of the news in the report on the industrial front is bad. The supply of industrial space in Knoxville-Knox County grew 2.1 percent in the 2007-2009 period to 32.9 million square feet with the construction of eight new buildings. The most notable new addition is the 353,000-square-foot distribution center built by Sysco Corp. on the former Coster Shop property along Interstate 275 just north of downtown.

Also, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters renovated and moved into a 334,000-square-foot distribution facility in Forks of the River Industrial Park.

Finding new users for vacant manufacturing plants is never easy. Every manufacturer has specific needs and some prefer to build rather than renovate.

However, finding new users can be done, as the successful recruitment of Green Mountain Coffer Roasters proves. 

Read the executive summary of the MPC report here.

MPC is selling the report for $75. A PDF version is $50.