Andy Knight, The Herald Bulletin
January 6, 2024
ANDERSON — While many economists believe that the U.S. economy has dodged a recession — for now — lingering concerns about consumer spending and high interest rates have prompted a cautious outlook in the new year.
“Cost of capital has perceptibly been a problem,” said Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development in Madison County.
Sparks said that, in an effort to blunt some of those costs, some companies are choosing to locate operations in communities like Anderson and others in the Madison County area, where real estate is cheaper and finished products are closer to consumers, which helps moderate transportation costs.
“We have seen more and more of those types of projects, which I think is the future of our economy,” he said. “That’s a good thing for us, and it’ll create jobs as our population continues to grow. That’ll help our retail sector and everything else.”
Accounting for those trends, Sparks said, played prominently in economic development initiatives that area officials have planned for the coming months.
Here is a look at some of the key projects on which progress is expected in 2024:
Work should finish soon on development connected to the Golf Club of Alexandria, a vital component of the city’s efforts to draw visitors and new residents from across the region, according to officials.
The development includes updates to the course’s 6,000-square-foot clubhouse, more than 40 condominiums for seniors, and a restaurant. Construction began in 2021.
“This project is important for Alexandria as it brings new residents and visitors to the community in addition to the tax revenue,” Mayor Todd Naselroad said.
Officials also expect continued enhancement of the city’s downtown retail incubator space. According to economic director Alan Moore, space allocated for the project will allow entrepreneurs to launch new retail businesses without incurring the risks normally associated with traditional storefront space.
“It’s important to get more entrepreneurs into the downtown area to help grow the local economy,” Naselroad said. “This project has a lot of potential to do just that.”
The city’s economic development officials hope to build on momentum they believe was established in 2023, when plans were finalized to open a Needler’s Fresh Market and Ace Hardware in the former Marsh store on Nichol Avenue.
Along with the planned fall opening of a $20 million North American headquarters for FITT USA on Raible Avenue, economic activity on the west side appears poised to accelerate.
“We’re very excited that we’ve finally been able to get those projects started in earnest,” said Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department. “But the caveat is that it’s just the start. We’ve got a long way to go there.”
Winkler pointed to other locations near Interstate 69 that are hosting projects that promise to bring hundreds of new jobs — and with them, increased tax rolls — and, potentially, hundreds of new residents.
Work on a new warehouse on 67th Street for Corteva Agriscience, an Indianapolis-based seed distributor, is expected to be finished in June. Nestle is expanding the wastewater treatment plant at its 73rd Street facility. Along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a former Guide property is being updated for use by Jarvis Holdings, a trucking company.
Altogether, Winkler said, the city expects to close on six major economic development projects that would represent about $680 million in new private investment and add more than 700 jobs to the local economy.
“That’s the type of uptick in activity that we’re seeing,” Winkler said. “I’m sure that we’re going to continue to see certain parts of the economy continue to be somewhat reluctant (to move) due to interest rates and global instability. But some companies have reached a point where they have to move forward with plans or they’re going to start losing business.”
Plans are progressing for sale of the former Ranch Motel property along Ind. 37 to a developer who intends to build a 54-room hotel with an indoor pool and other amenities.
That, along with the building of a multimillion-dollar sports complex and construction of a new pool and splash pad at the Mary Beth Dunnichay Aquatics Center, could help Elwood compete with other nearby cities for tourism dollars.
“All these projects strengthen the future development of the city, not only by improving the quality of life for our residents, but also attracting people from outside of our community to spend their money at local businesses,” Mayor Todd Jones said.
The town’s proximity to Interstate 69 has spurred planners to envision a large area near Exit 214 that, according to town manager and planning director Neil Stevenson, will “foster economic growth, enhance connectivity and revitalize the community’s urban fabric.”
The Ingalls Innovation District, Stevenson said, has already drawn a total of $3.7 million in current and planned investments from the public sector, with more than $30 million committed by private entities.
With planned industrial complexes that include advanced manufacturing and warehousing facilities, commercial and retail outlets and residential space, the district will be prominent in updating the town’s comprehensive plan in 2024.
“This substantial financial commitment underscores the district’s potential as a magnet for economic development, job creation and community revitalization,” Stevenson said.
Town officials have applied for several grants and other funding to support another round of improvements to the downtown area.
A $250,000 proposal for the county’s share of food and beverage tax revenues through the Madison County Community Economic Development Program would provide double that amount through a façade matching grant for owners of historic downtown properties.
Other efforts are underway to apply for funding to support smaller projects, according to Carey Craig, who was hired as the town’s community development coordinator last June and who also serves as the executive director of Main Street Pendleton and the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce.
“There will be plenty of opportunities for residents to participate in multiple community conversations that will set the tone and lay the plans for improvements and investments in our downtown,” Craig said in an email. “These discussions might consider long-term legacy projects funded through private grants and donations.”
Craig said town officials will apply also for a $40,000 grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to create a new downtown revitalization plan. Both that plan and the town’s existing comprehensive master plan will be updated, he said, with emphases on quality of place, rather than increasing the town’s population.
“This downtown coupled with the park is what really draws people and attracts people — both those who live here and who want to visit,” Craig said. “Preserving the buildings that we have downtown is an important piece of that economic development pie.”
Town officials remain focused on infrastructure improvements and quality-of-life projects, highlighted by the planned paving of Water Street from the town’s northern boundary to its southern edge.
“This will repave the street that runs completely through the town,” said Ed Leonard, president of the Chesterfield Town Council. He noted that the northern section of the project would include sidewalk replacements.
Additional new playground equipment at the town’s park is scheduled for installation this year, and officials hope other improvements will attract increased activity in the town’s center, according to Leonard.
“By design, this area is becoming a focal point for the town,” he said. “It is our desire to continue these annual improvements for the residents to have an enjoyable area of recreation.”
Officials believe the town can continue capitalizing on traffic from nearby Interstate 69 to attract visitors and improve the profitability of local businesses.
Town Council President Tom Roberts said expectations are high that interest from businesses considering locating in Daleville will result in further development near the I-69/Ind. 67 interchange. He noted that ABC Construction has purchased land nearby with plans to build a training center.
“We also believe that the growth will continue on the north (and) potentially the south side of State Road 67 all the way to the town limit,” he said. “The old adage, ‘location, location, location,’ seems to fit very well for Daleville right now.”