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RDC backs shell building proposal

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The LaGrange County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) gave its support to a recommendation to build a “shell building” in the Fawn River Crossing Industrial Park at the Toll Road exit and SR 9.

The proposal was brought to the RDC by the LaGrange County EDC and developer Garmong Construction of Terre Haute to form a public-private partnership that will construct a 75,000 sq. ft. building at Fawn River Crossing that can be marketed for corporations looking for new manufacturing sites.

According to Keith Gillenwater, president of the EDC, the county has missed out on business opportunities recently because there were no suitable buildings in the county for the interested companies. Although there are a few buildings that are available, Gillenwater told the RDC there are several strikes against them, including low ceiling heights, divided interiors, and age of the buildings.

The shell building is being designed to hit a “sweet spot,” based on the requests that the EDC has pursued over the years. This includes 75,000 sq. ft., expandable to 150,000 sq. ft., with a 32 ft. ceiling height and an open floor plan. The building would also have an unfinished floor, which would allow a variety of manufacturing possibilities to install the type of flooring needed at that time. It was noted that, for example, a food processing plant would need to install drains, pipes and other infrastructure under the manufacturing floor, something that would be impossible in an existing building.

“We’ve lost opportunities,” Gillenwater told the RDC. “In 2012, we were shortlisted for three projects worth 475 jobs and $24,650,000 in investment in the county. A shell building would have met the needs of those projects.”

Gillenwater added that companies looking at LaGrange County “love our community. We hit them on all out points until we take them to a building.” One building noted in the discussions is the Multiplex building on SR 9 north of Howe. Gillenwater points out that the building has plenty of room, but that room is divided up so much it makes it nearly unusable for most manufacturing companies. “From an operations, logistical point of view, it’s a nightmare,” he told the RDC.

All of the site selectors that have come to the county, he added, have indicated that they need a shell building for their clients.

With the positive recommendation, the proposal moves to the county commissioners and council, as some commitment from the county is needed. Garmong, which has successfully built several buildings like the one proposed, will finance and pay for the building. The county will pay for the interest on the building. The building itself is expected to cost around $4 million, with an estimated interest payment of $175,000 to $200,000 per year. If the building sells within a year, the county will receive its payments back.

“Garmong helps market the building,” Gillenwater said. “We both have an interest in selling or leasing it as soon as possible.”

Dan Zuerner of Garmong told the RDC that “what we’re talking about here can impact the community for decades.” While Fawn River Crossing Industrial Park is certified as “shovel ready” by the state, he noted that there are 93 other shovel ready sites in the state alone. “They all look the same,” he said. “There are only three buildings in the state that would work for a company to move into quickly.” He asked the county if they wanted to be one of three or one of 93.

It was also noted that the shell building would be used to attract firms that have higher paying jobs. “Contractually, we can’t sell the building unless it reaches a certain wage and job levels,” Zuerner added.

“Projects are about speed,” Zuerner continued. “IT’s about can they (manufacturing firms) meet their obligations. If they can’t meet a contract in your community, they won’t come.”

Garmong also pledged to use as many local contractors as possible in constructing the building. “Our pledge is to give local people the opportunity to participate,” he told the RDC.

The RDC discussed funding the county’s obligation to pay the interest rate, and enquired if TIF money could be used. TIF funds from that district could be used, but the majority of the money is already pledged to the county to repay a bond.

The commissioners and council will meet in joint session in November to discuss the county’s options.