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Why Northwest Indiana?

If Indiana's farmland is the state's soul, then Northwest Indiana might be considered the state's muscle.

The area has become the steel capital of the country. The pride, sweat and dollars that pour into those mills and factories operating in East Chicago, Gary, Portage and other cities at the heart of this industrial area have attracted many other businesses like a magnet attracts steel.

The Northwest Indiana Forum Inc. helps bring companies to this corner of the state. "Companies are referred, and we also do recruitment, retention and expansion projects," says Terri Petras, the organization's marketing director. The forum works in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Starke, Newton, Jasper and Pulaski counties. "When a company comes to us and says they want to locate somewhere here, we can bring together the whole package. We can bring in utilities, banks to put together financing, the city to talk about tax abatements. We can draw it all together for them."

What follows is a look at some of those businesses that have chosen to make their home in Northwest Indiana.


"From a geographical point of view, this location made sense," says Gordon Hendry, president National Tube Supply Co. of Hammond. "Our customer base is the Midwest, and it made sense to locate in Chicago land."

Ready access to transportation at the Hammond site helped National Tube, a distributor, pick Indiana over Illinois for the location of its operations, Hendry says.

"We envision expanding very rapidly. The transport and trucking companies have made this location advantageous."


While many of the companies listed here are related to the traditional heavy industry associated with this area, John Bowman Photography in Munster is an example of the service industries drawn to the Indiana side of what is known locally as Chicagoland.

"Cook County wasn't willing to work with us, and we were having to sacrifice square footage in the building to pay the taxes," says John Bowman, owner of the company. In Illinois, the company was classified as a manufacturer, a designation that carried with it a larger tax burden.

When the company looked for a new home, the city of Munster, located in Lake County, was able to put together an attractive deal.

"They approved an abatement plan that lets me get out of some of my front-loaded debt over a few years," Bowman says. "We couldn't have done what we're doing without the town's help."

A half-million dollars has been invested in the company, which reopened in the West Central Business Park in December 1990. The workforce has doubled, to 14, and serves about 300 clients, among them some of the country's largest furniture manufacturers.

"Image is very important, and they wanted to make sure everything was right," he says. "They'll correct you if you call this an industrial park--it's a business park. It's important."


In many, if not most, parts of Indiana, pickling is something that's done to a barrel full of cucumbers. In the Calumet Region, it refers to steel production.

"It's cleaning the hot-rolled steel coils," explains Ray Bello, the company's general manager. "We take off the iron oxide." These surface oxides are removed via a series of baths in hydrochloric acid, a substance that burns the acid off.

"This site was perfect for our needs," Bello says of the Port of Indiana location at Burns Harbor. "We're near the mills, we have a way to move the product--rail--and the water is available."

There was another factor. "The workforce is a good, experienced work force."


Company president Robert Bourg explains that he liked what he saw in Valparaiso.

The city won out over locations considered in Wisconsin and Illinois for the place where the company would move its plastic-bucket manufacturing facilities.

"The Valparaiso site was very desirable. There are good transportation links to our good Chicago markets," Bourg says. "And we've been able to work with the utilities."

The company was able to work out a program with Northern Indiana Public Service Co. that reduced utility rates, and the state and local government provided economic incentives. Bennett will benefit from a $91,000 Indiana Department of Commerce Industrial Development Infrastructure Program grant made to the city.

Bennett is investing about $7 million in land, a building and equipment. The 106,000-square-foot facility is being constructed on 10.5 acres in Valparaiso's Montdale Industrial Park. It is expected to open in March and will employ about 80 workers.


This company chose a five-acre site at the Southport Business Park in Portage for a new corporate office and operations headquarters last year.

"We were consolidating our offices and this was the best location for access to the freeways," says Adam Wolk, vice president for operations of this industrial cleaning company, formerly based in Chicago.

The company, which employs about 250, does industrial cleanups, including vacuuming, water blasting, sewer, tank and concrete cleaning. Customers include steel, grain, chemical, automotive and food companies as well as utilities such as NIPSCO and Commonwealth Edison Co.

The Northwest Indiana Forum, the city of Portage and Bethlehem Steel Corp. worked to bring Combined Plant Services to Indiana. The available work force was a factor that entered into the decision.

"It seems to be a little stronger in this area, the people seem to be a little harder working," he says. "We anticipate being here a long time and growing in the area. We need the workers to be able to do that."


"For us it's all logistics, access to our Chicago markets," says Greg Hinton, marketing director of Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms.

The company, one of the country's largest egg producers, entered the northwest corner of the state with a facility in Newton County almost seven years ago. Since that time operations have branched out to Pulaski, White and Jasper counties. In the four counties the company employs about 250 people. Jasper County was recently tapped for construction of a new egg-drying facility.

"Basically, this is taking the egg and putting it in powdered form," he explains. "It's a new area for us, going into egg products. We've always had it in the shell. Now we're taking it out."

"This is a multi million dollar investment in Jasper County," Hinton says. "Products from that facility will go to Chicago and they'll go coast-to-coast."
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Title Annotation:Indiana's North Coast: Living & Working in Northwest Indiana; business and industry in Indiana
Author:Skertic, Mark
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Working in Northwest Indiana: doing business on Indiana's North Coast.
Next Article:Indiana's potato chip lady.

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