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Sussex sees growing demand for industrial space

Katie Tabeling
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Frankford Business Park Travis Martin Sussex County industrial

Frankford Business Park developer Travis Martin has had so much success with small to medium flex industrial space that he’s looking for land for his next Sussex County project. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

FRANKFORD — Travis Martin says he got into the plumbing business accidentally. But now, he says, he thinks he found his calling: developing industrial space.

“It’s surprising how exciting and fun this is,” said the owner of Chesapeake Plumbing and Heating and other home service companies. “COVID has really accelerated the demand, for sure, but it’s hotter than you’d believe here.”

Martin is the mastermind behind the Frankford Business Park, with four buildings about 5 miles north of the Maryland border on U.S. Route 113. He originally built the space to move his fabrication for the HVAC and plumbing parts, but he got so much buzz that he decided to build some more space. 

Now the Frankford Business Park is home to plumbing wholesaler Coastal Trade Supply, HVAC wholesaler Aireco, CP Cases, and more. Martin is building two more buildings, and has plans for a seventh. 

Next up: finding more land ready to build along the Route 113 corridor, perhaps in Millsboro. 

“Small warehouses, under 10,000 square feet, are what businesses look for. And there’s not a lot of that new space, especially with city infrastructure and natural gas,” Martin said. “There’s definitely a need even for growing businesses between here and Seaford and Laurel.”

Industrial companies are Sussex County’s top prospects, with large swaths of land available and its major highways that connect to Washington, D.C, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Manufacturing and agribusiness are the top two sectors that see the most inquiries, according to Delaware Prosperity Partnership Vice President of Business Development Becky Harrington.

“Agriculture does move a little slower with the due diligence period. But small to medium manufacturing still is that sweet spot, and industrial sites still have that excitement around them,” Harrington said.

In addition to the Frankford Business Park, several projects are underway to provide the supply for the demand. In Selbyville, the Williamsville Industrial Park is currently planned for a 60,000 square-foot expansion to help target the small to medium companies that have eagerly moved into the Frankford Business Park.

Meanwhile further north, the Coastal Business Park in Georgetown is preparing pad sites for further expansion. Earlier this year, Great Outdoor Cottages announced it would be expanding production capacity. Sussex County officials hope to further activate the site with adding a 500-foot runway to the nearby Delaware Coastal Airport, which will let larger planes land.

In Seaford, several industrial sites are under construction. The Ross Industrial Park has been approved to add another two buildings with 9,960 square feet, with another three proposed. Construction is underway at the Western Sussex Business Campus, a project headed up by KRM Development. The first building will be 70,000 square feet and could be subdivided up to 18 tenants, although KRM President Jesse Parks anticipates it to have no more than 10 companies.

“It’s still too early to talk about tenants, although local realtors keep asking about it,” Parks said. “Something like what we’re doing doesn’t really exist. There’s either small industrial space or older, larger warehouses. There’s no middle ground, and it’s a growing market.”

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