Millions of public dollars have been poured into infrastructure projects in Inola over the last five years to turn the abandoned Black Fox Nuclear Plant into a busy and thriving industrial park.
Nearly all of those infrastructure projects are coming to an end as the first company in the park, Sofidel, prepares to open its doors by August.
Rogers Country Commissioner Ron Burrows spoke about the projects and expected completion dates as well as future projects and opportunities in Inola.
“I’m proud of this project,” Burrows said. “We spent four years trying to get Sofidel to choose Rogers County. We spent a lot of time trying to get all the pieces of the puzzle to come together. So it is amazing to see it finally here and near completion.”
“A lot has gone in the last several months to pull this together, and it s all starting to take shape as we near the finish line on all these projects,” he said.
In 2018 Sofidel, an Italian paper manufacture, announced the construction of a 1.9 million square foot facility that will reportedly support over 300 jobs and a $360 million capital investment in Inola.
The facility is designed to use a cooling pond originally built for the nuclear plant as a water source for making paper.
“It’s a unique situation that this property, built for one purpose decades ago and then abandoned, could be used by an entirely different industry today,” Burrows said.
Sofidel also plans to bring the existing rail line right up along the north end of their building to load product in and out with forklifts.
Certain functions of the plant will be up and running by August. The facility is expected to be fully functional by 2020.
$1.5 M Waterline
The town of Inola received a $1.5 million grant to run a 12-inch waterline out to the Black Fox Industrial Park.
The new line runs from the high school, under Old Highway 33 to 4200 Road and then travels south to the park.
The grant exceeded the cost of the project.
“This is not just for Sofidel, but also for future development,” Burrows said.
$8 M Lock & Dam Road
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the county have partnered to re-structure and resurface 4200 Road, locally known as Lock & Dam road.
The $8 million project began in early 2018, and is expected to be complete by September.
As previously reported, the final stage of the project has 4200 Road operating as a one-way between Highway 412 and Old Highway 33.
ODOT is funding 75 percent of the project and the county is funding 25 percent out of the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Fund (CIRB), which is intended for big projects that the county would otherwise not be able to afford.
“We’re hoping that the new road will entice even more businesses and new jobs,” Burrows said. “Investing this kind of money will come back to the county in property tax over and over and over.”
$1.3 M Sewer System
Public Service of Oklahoma, the owners of most of the Black Fox property, donated land to the town of Inola in order for the town to supply sewer for the industrial park.
The town received a $1.3 million grant to construct a lift station and three open-arrow lagoons to treat the sewage produced by the industrial parks current and future occupants.
“Its way off in the middle of nowhere, where no one will see it or smell it,” Burrows said.
The grant exceeded the cost of the project. The town will be responsible for maintenance of the system.
“The lagoons are functional and nearly complete,” Burrows said.
Remaining Black Fox Property
PSO still owns 2,400 acres of the Black Fox site, and 1,100 are buildable, Burrows said.
While a handful of companies have inquired about building at the park, no official announcements have been made.
However, Burrows said, Black Fox is an ideal place to open or grow an industrial business because of the quick access to rail, highway and river transportation as well as business friendly natural gas, electric, and tax incentives provided by the state.
This includes a fully constructed and abandoned barge slip that can be made usable again for roughly $1 million.
“This is a key enticement for any company that needs a waterway for their business,” Burrows said, adding, “The millions PSO invested back when this was going to be a nuclear power plant and then just walked away from is mind boggling.”
“When attracting industries this large, its hard to check all the boxes off for what they need,” Burrows said. “Hopefully this site will attract them to Rogers County.”