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By Robert Tilton
From the March/April 2014 issue
Water: It’s a vital resource for global industry. In fact, five percent of the global water supply is used to make the world work. For certain manufacturing processes, from food processing to metal fabrication, from cooling to transporting, water is indispensable.
However, water can also be used to as a strategic industrial resource in ways beyond the manufacturing process. In fact, not unlike the way Nature uses water, to create a growing, flourishing environment, an industrial park can do the same.
Case in point: The story of water at MidAmerica Industrial Park.
Located in Pryor, OK, just 40 minutes from downtown Tulsa, MidAmerica is a giant of an industrial park. At 9,000 acres it’s one of the largest rural industrial parks in the nation, and has attracted some of biggest names in global industry as tenants, from Google to DuPont.
However, the asset that has truly set MidAmerica apart is the Park’s big thinking about water, and how water might be used to leverage the Park’s immense size with crucial agility, to enhance the Park’s speed and responsiveness to tenant needs. Owned and operated as a public trust, MidAmerica was created from the ground up for one dedicated purpose: to create jobs by supporting tenant industry to a greater degree than ever before. The Park’s founders understood that jobs would flow to MidAmerica if work at MidAmerica flowed efficiently and cost-effectively, and that meant taking a big-picture approach to utilities, including water resources.
“Design and implementation of infrastructure was critical,” says Dave Stewart, MidAmerica’s Chief Administrative Officer. “And when you see how those first decisions are playing out today, the prescience is impressive.”
In providing tenants electricity and gas, the Park looked to competing suppliers to insure lower costs, redundancies and reliability; today the Park has two onsite electrical providers and two natural gas pipelines.
However, when it came to water and wastewater treatment, the Park took the opposite route and plunged in to build its own facilities, sourcing its water from the Grand Neosho River. Neosho is an Osage word meaning “clear and abundant water,” and abundance was very much what MidAmerica was seeking. Today MidAmerica’s water system is the still fourth largest in Oklahoma.
For tenants that means a combined water tank storage capacity of 19.5 million gallons and a water treatment capacity of 50 million gallons per day with a daily peaking capacity of 62 million gallons. And because of the Park ownership, that high capacity is paired with low costs, through a declining block rate structure for metered customers and rates for unmetered and small business (five or fewer people) also available. National studies have shown MidAmerica’s water rates to be among the most affordable in the nation.
Also because of Park ownership, wastewater treatment offers significant advantages. MidAmerica holds the umbrella NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit that allows industries to discharge directly to the park’s treatment plant. The park’s wastewater treatment rates are also among the nation’s most affordable.
“Reduced water and water treatment costs are critical to MidAmerica’s promise to reduce operating costs by 20 percent to 70 percent over other industrial parks,” Stewart notes.
Moreover, even as it provides tenants with ample supply and low costs, the Park system also serves two communities and seven water districts, service that translates into an invaluable revenue stream helping to give the Park an enviable financial stability which in turn has made possible other assets and advantages.
“Revenue from our water system has been a key element in our ability to offer construction financing, for example,” Stewart points out. “That’s meant streamlined startups for tenants. We’ve also been able to spend $5 million recently to prepare additional shovel-ready sites with rail access, and on a day-to-day basis, our revenues have enabled us to maintain a larger, professional onsite staff for smoother operations.”
And today, that revenue stream has also helped make possible the donation of land and funds for Rogers State University’s new $10 million campus, opened in 2013 onsite at MidAmerica, thus providing the Park with yet another onsite workforce training option to add to its arsenal.
Thus, excellent water capacity and rates are just the beginning of the benefits that flow from water at MidAmerica. Smoother startups, higher workforce productivity and greater operational efficiencies are also part of the “flow chart” of how MidAmerica Industrial Park works with water to provide clear advantages for industry in today’s highly competitive market.