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Economic development around the state: an update for northwest Indiana, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Indianapolis and Evansville.

Recession or not, Indiana's economic-development efforts have generated a number of notable success stories.

The biggest single project in terms of new jobs created was announced in March by Cummins Engine Co. Inc. of Columbus. Spurred on by $6 million in training and infrastructure assistance from the state, Cummins decided to reopen its Walesboro facility in southern Bartholomew County to produce midrange engines. The company plans to invest about $200 million and create more than 500 jobs when the plant reopens next year.

There were some big fish that got away in the past year. Scott Paper Co. bypassed Indiana and chose a Kentucky site for its planned $200 million paper mill and the up to 500 jobs it will create. And Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis in the competition for a Conrail customer-service facility that would have created as many as 1,000 jobs.

NORTHWEST INDIANA

Economic development in Northwest Indiana is very much a turf battle. With the exception of the Northwest Indiana Forum--a Merrillville-based private economic development group with members from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties--everybody else has his own piece of the pie.

Forum President Charles Oberlie has worked during the past year to map out a plan that will both retain existing business in Northwest Indiana and lure new firms to the region. "Our hope is to attract corporations that want to expand, not just relocate from other places," says Oberlie.

The most recent effort was a booth at the International Exposition for Food Processors trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Following the recommendations in a $120,000 Fantus Corp. study commissioned by the forum, food processing was targeted as one of the industries best suited to meet the economic needs of the Calumet Region. They were targeted, says Oberlie, because there are already 48 such businesses operating in seven Northwest Indiana counties. The industry, in addition, would help diversify the area, lessening its heavy dependence on steel manufacturing and steel-support industries.

But while the forum takes the broad view of attracting companies to the region and then letting individual communities sell themselves, other groups take a more direct approach.

In Porter County, the Community Organization on Industry Location has been working for six years to boost economic development in Portage. David Highlands, one of the founders of COIL and its president, says the organization is focused on job creation. COIL wants to build the area's industrial base by brining in metal-processing firms. The organization works closely with existing businesses and the Port of Indiana to market itself.

In LaPorte County, the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce is looking to retrench in 1991. J. Bradley Allamong, chamber president, says the focus this year is the city's Urban Enterprises Zone. Michigan City was one of the original six cities in the state to receive an enterprise zone, and Allamong says the chamber wants to make sure it is completely viable when its mandate expires in a couple of years.

SOUTH BEND

South Bend and Mishawaka frequently have joined forces to promote St. Joseph County, and economic development is yet another area of cooperation.

Each city has its own economic development department. Jon Hunt, director of South Bend's, describes the economic development groups as project-oriented, implementing agencies.

One of the main concerns of South Bend's economic development department is land development. Last year, Hunt and his staff pursued the acquisition of sites in what is known locally as the Studebaker Corridor. This area takes in the vacant Studebaker factory plus other empty or deteriorating buildings and residences in the fringe areas.

Earlier this year, the department succeeded in acquiring 50 sites, and in March began clearing some of the worst areas as well as performing asbestos removal work in one of the buildings. Hunt says environmental work will continue in the area. A few companies have indicated an interest in the corridor, but so far there have been no definite decisions to locate there.

The economic development commission also is involved in the city's Airport 2010 project, which is a mammoth five-part plan to develop the area around Michiana Regional Airport as an industrial-trade zone center.

Through its business development programs, the economic development commission makes direct loans, and administers U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

Project Future is the marketing agent for the country. The not-for-profit group, under the guidance of Executive Director Patrick McMahon, pursues an aggressive marketing campaign to attract capital investment to St. Joseph county.

Project Future also houses the South Bend office of the Small Business Development Center and employs a full-time research director who is responsible for gathering data that will be useful to existing business and prospective ones.

FORT WAYNE

When heavy-duty truck manufacturere International Harvester Co. pulled out of Fort Wayne in the early 1980s, economic development efforts in the area suddenly had one focus: Keep the jobs we have and bring in new ones. The Summit City used property tax abatements, outright loans and other incentives to lure new business to town.

Ten years later, job attraction and retention is still the goal. But the emphasis now is on creating an environment where business and industry will want to locate. Instead of making big promises and payouts up front, local leaders are arguing that they need to offer prospective employers a job force and an infrastracture that will allow a company to grow.

"For a long time we fought to bring in jobs, but we've realized that we can't do that unless we upgrade our infrastructure," says David Brown, president of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce. "We've got to maintain what we've got. And we've got to have the educational opportunities here that employers are looking for."

Several large capital improvement projects are under way or have been completed recently. Interstate 469, which connects Interstate 69 to U.S. 30, is a reality after years of discussion. Baer Field airport, which was forced to shut runways that had deteriorated after decades of neglect, did a record $15.6 million in improvement work last year.

A good transportation network will be vital to the area's future, says Mark Royse, Allen County's economic development chief. "We're in a transition from the early '80s when we were just trying to bring in jobs with quick-fix incentives," he explains. "Now we're facing some real development issues." Royse points out, for example, that it's not enough for an area to have access to good roads--utilities have to be available as well. The new I-469 has provided easier access from the county's southern half, but much of the area still is not served by sewer lines.

Depending on the type of business and its location, economic development in Fort Wayne has been handled by the city, county and chamber of commerce. The informal relationship the three have has been successful, but a recent study by Cambridge Systematics Inc. and the Indiana Economic Development Council warned that the partnership is a "'fragile veneer subject to the influence of politics and staff changes."

To ward offsuch problems, leaders from the two major units of government and the chamber have formed the Economic Development Coordinating Committee. The city, county and chamber will continue their own economic development efforts, but there are advantages to a coordinating board, Mayor Paul Helmke explains.

"By working together to develop incentives and package deals," says the mayor, "the entire area will have a stronger range of bargaining tools to offer prospective employers than any one of these members alone."

LAFAYETTE

J. Michael Brooks, president of Greater Lafayette Progress Inc., takes the point as the city's "marketing arm." Recruited last fall from his nine-year directorship of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Brooks himself counts as one success. Other key players include local executives who are providing low-profile advice and industries that are vociferously supporting development. Also contributing are related organizations, such as Purdue University's Business and Industrial Development Center and a recently reopened Small Business Development Center.

The team's priority, Brooks says, is retention and expansion of loca businesses. While the group doesn't claim credit for them all, current expansions include Lafayette Venetian Blind, Ice Cream Specialties, MED Institute and Consolidated Industries.

The group is pursuing new business aggressively, too. A small but significant newcomer is Utility Test Equipment, which relocated from New Jersey this year.

Purdue is upping its economic development activities, reports BIDC Director LeRoy Silva, who primarily high-tech industries. Besides co-sponsoring the new SBDC, "there's a lot of activity in giving Purdue's Industrial Research Park a shot in the arm," Silva says.

Silva also predicts more successes in nurturing new high-tech companies and recruiting existing businesses. "The electronics industry in California is re-thinking its posture because state government is almost hostile to the high-tech industry," he says. "The cost of doing business in California is roaring out of control. And if businesses use water in any way, the're in trouble." That's prompting some to move or to expand elsewhere. "We will keep our contacts to assure we get a crack at them when the time comes. It's a long haul. In some cases, it takes years."

The Lafayette-area contingency also is participating in a nine-county coalition that currently is promoting the region as the "logical spot" for locating a new business or plant.

Brooks also expects the contract for the region's Manufacturing Technology Service Center, one of five programs being established through the Indiana Corporation for Science and Technology. "That will help us enhance our ability to help manufacturers," Brooks says.

The GLPI now is fine-tuning a new strategic plan and marketing program. And this summer, the organization moves into high-visibility headquarters in downtown Lafayette that also will house the SBDC, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and the downtown business center.

While the area's economic development group acknowledges there's no guarantee in their game plan, Brooks bets his team will continue to score well.

INDIANAPOLIS

How does Indianapolis find industrial prospects? Regular contact with companies in target cities, such as Chicago and New York, is one major effort, says Tim Monger, president of the Indianapolis Economic Development Corp. "That's our marketing mode," he says. "We try to plant the seed and make them aware of Indianapolis' attributes."

Development officials travel to targeted cities several times a year and make pitches to selected companies that seem to be good expansion candidates. When the officials get a nibble, they provide information on available property as well as data comparing Indianapolis with other cities that also may be in the running for a new development. They craft incentive packages as well in cooperation with state officials.

"One of the things that we pitch is our labor force, the availability of the labor force, the quality of the labor force," Monger says. This is important because the city's relatively low unemployment rate might lead some companies to infer that quality labor will be hard to come by.

The prospects also are told of the low cost of living and high quality of life in Indianapolis, the accessibility to much of the country by way of a variety of forms of transportation, and low utility and real-estate costs.

Though out-of-town prospecting can pay off with occasional dramatic announcements of major new employers, there are other day-to-day development operations that are as vital, if not as glamorous. "We focus on existing businesses to encourage them to reinvest and look at expansion," says Mike Higbee, director of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development.

The biggest success story in town, in fact, is on the reinvestment from. It involves Eli Lilly and Co., which plans nearly $1 billion worth of new capital projects in Indianapolis over the next few years. New manufacturing and administrative space already is under construction, and plans are in the works for more manufacturing and research space.

Another success story is General Motors Truck and Bus Group, which Monger says is in the midst of several hundred million dollars' worth of new investment. And Mansur Development Corp. is renovating the old Indianapolis Rubber Co. plant for the new headquarters of Indiana Farm Bureau.

The central location of Indianapolis, meanwhile, attracted a new distribution facility late last year, Monger notes. The Henry Schein Co., based in New York, chose Indianapolis as distribution site for its medical, dental and veterinary products. The company has about 60 percent of the national dental products market.

As Monger notes, those and other success stories indicate that Indianapolis has been spared the worst of the recession. "I think Indianapolis seems to be faring fairly well in comparison to other cities in the country."

EVANSVILLE

The area's economy got a major boost recently when Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. decided to move some of its product lines to its Evansville plant from other corporate locations. The manufacturer of household appliances plans to invest $110 million in the local facility within the next five years, and to add 800 employees by 1993. Announcements by AmeriQual Foods Inc. and Windsor Plastics Inc. that they soon will be expanding work forces and square footage brighten Evansville's economic outlook as well.

Most of the bright spots in the economic development picture have been the result of expansion decisions made by companies already in Evansville. Few new firms, however, have come onto the scene. To address this situation, a new economic development organization called Vison 2000 was formed in the spring of 1990.

Vision 2000's first priority was to analyze Evansville's strengths and weaknesses. With this complete community profile, Vision 2000 decided what types of companies would benefit best from the resources available in the area. the profile indicated that appropriate firms to recruit would be those in manufacturing fields such as industrial machinery, automotive parts, medical equipment and plastic products. Also listed as a primary target was the telecommunications industry, while food processing was identified as a secondary target.

Pinpointing high-growth firms in these fields, Vision 2000 has begun a direct-mail campaign using an impressive series of brochures prepared by Evansville's nationally known advertising firm, Keller-Crescent Co. Vision 2000 also has placed advertisements in trade journals. Those responding to the ads receive the brochure series touting Evansville's high quality of life and proximity to delivery locations. Vision 2000 also has promoted the Evansville community through participation in trade shows worldwide. During the first half of 1991, Robinson scheduled visits to shows in the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Japan as well as in many U.S. locations.

While Vision 2000's chief purpose is attracting new jobs and investments to Evansville, the Metropolitan Evansville Chamber of Commer's development mission is providing assistance to existing companies. According to Ann Penfield, the chamber's vice president of area business development, this assistance takes many forms.

The chamber, for example, organized a steering committee of plastics-manufacturing firms. This committee, with chamber help, applied for and received a state grant to provide lab equipment for employee training through Indiana Vocational Technical College.

Other organizations that are playing important roles on the Evansville economic development scene include Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., the city's Department of Metropolitan Development, the Small Business Development Center and the Evansville Industrial Foundation. A 60,000-square-foot small-business incubator targeting light manufacturing also is in the works.

The efforts of many players are combining to make Evansville the kind of place that lives up to the slogan on its promotional brochures--"What The Business World Is Coming To."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Richards, Rick A.; Applegate, Debra A.; Skertic, Mark; Mayer, Kathy; Kaelble, Steve; Nellis, Carolin
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:May 1, 1991
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