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LaGrange approves tax abatement


A preliminary ordinance approving a 10-year tax abatement for real estate improvements and new equipment was approved at the Monday evening LaGrange Town Board meeting. The abatement is for Lake Area Designs, LLC.

Real estate improvements of $1,791,331 are included in the ordinance, as well as $960,000 for equipment that is new to Indiana. Lake Area Designs is a wood furniture and custom molding manufacturer for the recreational vehicle (RV) and commercial industries. It formerly operated in Sturgis, Mich., as Lake Area Moldings.

The preliminary ordinance designates the ATJ Real Estate company property at the north edge of LaGrange (formerly Jayco) owned by Anu Sahni as an economic revitalization area. There will be a final hearing for the project at the LaGrange Town Board meeting on Feb. 19.

Rob West, representing the new company, explained that his firm will be investing about $1.791 million to lease and renovate a 24,000 sq. ft. building in the ATJ complex. “We hope to be up and running by the end of March,” he said.

Investors in Lake Area Designs, in addition to West, are Steve Christner, Brian Miller, Bryan Copsey, and Danny Wingard.

The firm will retain 10 employees from the Sturgis area, bringing them to LaGrange, and begin hiring additional manufacturing and production associates in June. The total of 34 new jobs will come with projected company growth. The company expects to generate nearly $2 million in annual wages.

"Companies like LAD are actively seeking out friendly, low-cost environments with highly productive workers. As one of the most highly-rated business climates in the nation, no better place fits that description than Indiana," said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith.

Founded in Sturgis in 2004, LAD designs and manufactures wooden furniture, including coffee tables, chairs and end tables. The company, which also specializes in custom wood moldings such as door trim and base rails, supplies to multiple RV companies across Northeast Indiana.

"We are very excited to make the move to Indiana to be closer to our customer base in Northern Indiana," stated Rob West, president of LAD. "Being able to do business in a right-to-work state that provides companies with the necessary tools to be successful made the decision to relocate here an easy one and we look forward to growing in LaGrange County and the state of Indiana."

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Lake Area Designs, LLC up to $325,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company's job creation plans. These tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. The Town of LaGrange approved an additional tax abatement at the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.

"We are happy to support a new business in the town of LaGrange," said Mark Eagleson, president of the LaGrange Town Council. "The woodworking industry has great roots in LaGrange County and this new venture will not only create new jobs but support the industry that we already have established."

    RV production in the Hoosier State continues to come back since the national economic recession. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the RV industry produced 252,400 units nationally in 2011, a 4.1 percent increase from the year before. More than 83 percent of all American-made RVs are produced in Indiana.

    Lake Area Designs is a well-rounded wood manufacturer to the RV, manufacturing, residential and commercial sectors. Specializing in quality solid wood furniture and components, Lake Area Designs provides customers with a one-stop shop when it comes to designing and manufacturing custom-made wooden products, including furniture, doors, trim and moldings.  Created in 2005 to replace the former Department of Commerce, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is governed by a 12-member board chaired by Governor Mike Pence. Victor Smith serves as the Indiana Secretary of Commerce and Eric Doden is the president of the IEDC.

    The IEDC oversees programs enacted by the General Assembly including tax credits, workforce training grants and public infrastructure assistance. All tax credits are performance-based. Therefore, companies must first invest in Indiana through job creation or capital investment before incentives are paid. A company who does not meet its full projections only receives a percentage of the incentives proportional to its actual investment.

    For more information about IEDC, visit