Janesville’s reserve of vacant industrial land will grow by 47 acres after the city council on Monday night unanimously authorized purchase of a parcel on the city’s east side.

The city will buy the 47-acre site, located at 3901 Enterprise Drive, from Grainger for $1.3 million. Economic Development Director Gale Price said the move adds to Janesville’s stockpile of city-owned, development-ready industrial land—a stockpile that is “on the low side” compared to other nearby communities.

Price estimated that Janesville had roughly 135 acres of such land. That land is scattered throughout the city, and some parcels are as small as 5 acres.

In comparison, Beaver Dam has a 400-acre site ready for industrial development.

The 47 acres Janesville bought just east of Grainger was supposed to house an expanded headquarters for Lab Safety Supply, Grainger’s corporate predecessor, in the early 1990s. That never happened, and Grainger has since decided its current property is big enough, Price said.

The land is not intended for a specific future occupant currently in development talks with Janesville, but having it under city control could help Janesville recruit a company, Price said.

City ownership is one of the few tools Wisconsin municipalities have to compete industrially and is a “valuable incentive” for a project.

“The development community has built a relationship with us as being the primary land developer,” Price said. “There’s an assurance as to how we’ll work with them. There’s an assurance as to how we’ll move forward with a project in this kind of situation.

“It does benefit the developer if they’re not tying up capital in the land and infrastructure construction if the city’s doing it.”

Janesville’s control of a 235-acre tract of land and the city’s decision to extend Innovation Drive through the site helped show Dollar General the land was ready to support a warehouse, Price said.

The new acquisition is already within city limits, but any future acquisition of industrial-ready land would likely need to be annexed, he said.

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