The Benton/West City Economic Development Corp. (BWCEDC) is a 501c-3 not-for-profit organization that represents the Benton/West City area. It was started around 1998 with a full-time executive director to lead the area, but in the past decade it has been changed to a part-time executive director. The BWCEDC is made up of five oﬃcers and 21 directors, which represent various local leaders and a variety of professions. It is supported by the city of Benton and 15 local businesses that believe in the goals of the organization. It works with city oﬃcials, local legislators and works closely with FREDCO, which is the Franklin County EDC.
Presently, the BWCEDC has three main goals: expand the I/57 interchange to Petroﬀ Road, extend the airport road to Giacone Drive, and develop its properties for economic development.
Just recently, the city of Benton was awarded a $2.4 million Grant for Phase I engineering of the expanded interchange on I/57. This is a big step in expanding and developing the area all the way up to Petroﬀ Road. The plans for the interchange would be similar to the Marion exit, in that drivers would get oﬀ on a CD road before exiting. This allows for greater safety on entering and exiting the interstate.
The Access Justification Report (AJR) was approved a few years ago, and approval from the Federal Highway Administration came in 2015.
For seven years the city of Benton and the village of West City had an inter-governmental agreement to extend Giacone Drive north and connect to the airport road. Funding was not available during the agreement period, and now that agreement has expired. In the future, when the area around Petroﬀ Road develops, hopefully both communities will see the economic benefits of connecting these roads. Both Marion and Mt. Vernon have had success in developing connecting roads to enhance economic activity throughout their commercial areas.
The EDC's third goal is to develop our properties. It recently completed construction of the I/57 Airport Business Park, with a new sewer line, city water, electricity and access to fiber optics. A couple of years ago, the EDC received a grant from the Delta Regional Authority to construct a 565-foot road, which is now called Blue Ridge Drive. Blue Ridge Tractor is the first business, and last year Earth Services purchased 4.48 acres.
The EDC still has seven other lots, and would like to see some light industrial type businesses, each employing five to 10 employees. The BWCEDC also has 20 acres behind Custom Stainless, in the Benton Industrial Park, and is waiting to hear on a development for that area. The EDC is activity marketing all business parks, including the city's Industrial Park II just north of Walmart.
The BWCEDC has been awarded a couple of grants, which have been used for marketing Benton's industrial parks. New maps have been made of the industrial parks, and drone photography has been utilized to make TV commercials in 2017 and 2018.
A two-minute video was developed, and a 30-second marketing video has been sent to over 10,000 people in four targeted market areas. New signs have been utilized for promoting lots in our business park, and other industrial areas.
As we receive inquiries on our centrally located industrial parks, we are prepared to oﬀer Enterprise Zone and TIF District help where it is available. The Benton/West City EDC is committed to the economic development and expansion of this area.