FedEx Ground, Shuttle Aerospace likely to be next occupants of Bel Aire’s Sunflower Commerce Park

WICHITA — Bel Aire’s new Sunflower Commerce Park has landed a major deal and has another significant one in the works.

“We’re pretty pleased that just six months after groundbreaking, we’re really getting a lot of interest,” says Bel Aire city manager Ty Lasher.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Jones Development has 22 acres under contract at the park, which is just south of 53rd Street North and Webb Road in Bel Aire.

Sources say Jones plans to lease a 181,000-square-foot building to FedEx Ground.

Neither Lasher nor Marlin Penner of John T. Arnold Associates, the broker handling the deal, will confirm the building is for FedEx.

“Yes, we are under contract with Jones Development Company, and there will be a project out to bid,” Penner says. “It is a Fortune 100 company, and it will be a very nice facility, which will be a great thing for Sunflower Commerce Park.”

Lasher agrees and calls the deal “exciting.”

“It’s a big building,” he says. “We’ve actually signed a contract with them to purchase that, and they’re in the due diligence process. … We’re hoping to close in about 60 days.”

In an e-mailed statement, FedEx spokeswoman Allison Houser says: “FedEx Ground continuously evaluates opportunities that can enhance our ability to serve our customers, but, as a matter of policy, we don’t have further information on specific proposals under consideration.”

Lasher says he also expects to have a deal shortly with Wichita-based Shuttle Aerospace.

“We’ve negotiated the contract,” he says. “We’re waiting for their signature.”

Shuttle Aerospace currently is in 12,000 square feet of leased space at 2106 E. Industrial St. near Interstate 135 and Hydraulic. The company would own its new 25,000-square-foot building at the park.

“We grow at 25 to 30 percent a year,” owner Clovis Ribas says of the company, which makes small-to-medium-size parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry. “We are expanding, obviously, buying new machines and hiring people.”

Ribas says he wants to own his own space, but he says everything he considered either didn’t meet his specifications or was too expensive.

“We really didn’t find anything really that fits us,” he says. “You’re better off just to build your own.”

Penner is handling this deal as well.

Ribas says he’s been searching for a new place for years, and now he’s close to signing a contract at the park. He says it “should happen in the next couple of weeks,” which he says would allow him to break ground within three months and be open by the first quarter of 2014. Dondlinger and Sons most likely will be the contractor, Ribas says.

He says locating at Sunflower Commerce Park makes sense in several ways.

“Bel Aire has been really hungry, let’s put it that way,” Ribas says. He says the city was “willing to support and willing to work with a company of our size. … That’s the main reason why were moving there.”

Ribas says the site is put together well and is near similar high-end buildings and distribution centers that are more expensive.

“The access to that site is very, very good.”

In November, Bel Aire broke ground on the park, which has 800 acres in its master plan, 155 of which Lasher says are “shovel ready.” Century Manufacturing is the park’s first occupant.

Lasher says he’s working on more park possibilities in addition to Shuttle Aerospace and the Jones Development deals.

“We’re working with probably three other companies that are very interested.”