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First-hand look a big help to new board members
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After a walk around the woods, the Effingham Industrial Development Authority members really can see the forest for the trees.

IDA members toured the sprawling I-16 and Research Forest Tract projects last week, with many of the members getting a look at both tracts for the first time.

“Having that much land, it’s hard to fathom the magnitude of that much property and the potential for it,” IDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said. “The average industrial park is 150 acres, and we’ve got 2,600 acres.

“You need to have a first-hand look and see the rail and road networks. It helps with the visioning process. You can see the potential. It puts something tangible with the concepts.”

Of the eight members of the IDA, five have been on the board for less than 18 months, long after the IDA took possession of both the I-16 and Research Forest properties. The visits to the sites proved beneficial even for some of the longer serving board members.

“They all have a much better understanding of the challenges of developing the properties and of the potential we have there,” Henry said.

Said Dennis Webb, one of the newest board members: “I was impressed by both properties. When you get on the site, you really get a feel for it. It did me a lot of good.”

Webb was familiar with both the I-16 and Research Forest areas, but he had no idea just what they could be.

“I was really impressed by the Research Forest Tract,” he said. “Some of the areas there are so aesthetically attractive. Some of them are so beautiful. The potential to have something gorgeous, to have something the county can be proud of, is enormous.”

Said IDA member Charles Hinely: “Research Forest is a fine piece of property.”

Henry said getting a chance to see the properties in person brings the maps and the colored areas on them, representing everything from potential office and industrial parks to greenspace, to life.

“Once you get on the ground and see it first hand, it really opens some eyes,” he said.