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They want to come, if the county builds it

 

The idea for a shell building to entice new business is not a new one. It is an idea that has actually been around for decades, noted Keith Gillenwater with the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

The idea for a shell building in LaGrange County has been on the table since earlier last year and, in the fall, was given the go ahead to partner with Garmong Construction. However, funding for the project is currently being debated by the county.

Meanwhile, Gillenwater points out, the county is losing out on opportunities. So far in 2013, the county has received as many as eight project inquiries that the proposed shell building would have fit. In 2012, lost opportunities meant the loss of nearly 500 jobs and almost $25 million in investment in the county. The proposed specifications for the shell building would have met any of the three projects, Gillenwater pointed out.

And so far this year, the EDC gets leads on a couple of projects each month that are specifically looking for a shell building. “We get some that tell us don’t submit information for an old building,” Gillenwater added.

The idea is to build a shell building at Fawn River Crossing that is 75,000 sq. ft.,expandable to 150,000 sq. ft. The ceiling height would be at least 32 ft. clear span and would have a crushed limestone floor that is ready to be poured to a client’s desired thickness. The building could also have a two-story office space.

The size and specs of the building were chosen after extensive research, Gillenwater has said. The EDC conducted research based upon the project leads received over the past couple of years as to what was requested in a building. This includes:

·        High ceilings that are clear-span, with at least 28 ft. clear (most prefer at least 32 ft.).  Most of the buildings in LaGrange County consist of lower ceilings ranging from 12 ft. to 20 ft. (not clear-span) with a few exceptions in a couple of the buildings.

·        Buildings with a “corporate image,” i.e. a building that is aesthetically pleasing and presents a nice image to potential customers. In short – nice, corporate image buildings tend to attract higher wage employers. A number of existing facilities the county has do not have that look.

      Along with the loss of jobs and investment, the EDC notes the lost potential for additional tax revenue, lost revenue for area businesses that could come from new employees moving into the area, lost marketing opportunities for the county as a whole, and more.

The current discussion on funding the building is looking at using Major Moves money that would be loaned to the EDC to pay for the construction, estimated at $3.5 million. That would be paid back to the county at a percentage rate higher than current investments. Gillenwater pointed out that the county currently gets $5,400 per year in interest from $3.5 million. Paying back the shell building loan at 1 percent per year will mean the county will get $36,000 in interest each year of the loan.

At the same time, other communities are quickly realizing the benefits of shell buildings and are building their own. “Two other counties in Northeast Indiana are now pursuing the same idea since LaGrange County announced ours,” Gillenwater stated. That only adds to the competition to lure jobs and investment. And if those companies take residence in neighboring counties, Gillenwater said that while it’s good to have them in the region, “we won’t get the full benefits here in LaGrange County.”

“I genuinely believe this is what the county needs to do and will give us an opportunity,” Gillenwater added. “It’s a disservice if we didn’t take the opportunity. We’d be leaving those opportunities at the table.”