EDC working on real estate purchase agreements

As employers are considering more than $500 million in potential investments, Wayne County is rolling out a welcome mat to good industrial park prospects with real estate purchase agreements.

Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County leaders say that employers’ interest in the county is much higher than in the past several years.

In addition, several existing employers, including Taconic Biosciences, are also receiving the EDC’s help with current or proposed expansion plans.

Business development efforts

At its Dec. 5 meeting, the EDC board learned that staff are working on real estate purchase agreements and land surveys for two projects titled Project Laboratory and Project Delta. Official incentive proposals have been made for both as well.

Project Laboratory, a food processor, could bring a $73 million investment that adds 45 new jobs. Project Delta, a weld/coating manufacturer, could add 111 new jobs as part of a $63 million investment.

The board approved a resolution authorizing EDC President Valerie Shaffer to execute a sale of 36 acres in Phase 1 of the Midwest Industrial Park in Richmond as it keeps negotiations open with Project Laboratory.

The board also voted to amend a lease with the City of Richmond regarding the newly acquired Phase 3 land so EDC could be the intermediary to sell about 40 acres to Project Delta.

Shaffer said staff also responded to two new attraction project leads in November, and one of them is progressing “rather quickly.” A meeting is taking place this month with company executives to discuss more details about one of the projects.

Those two new opportunities are called Project Wisdom, a battery manufacturer that could add 300 jobs and a $50 million investment, and Project Thomas, a rail transload operator, with a projected investment of $10 million and 10 new jobs.

In addition, local businesses are exploring expansion opportunities.

Shaffer said the team is working on six local expansion projects, with two of them requesting incentive proposals. Those two projects represent a potential investment of $182 million and 98 new jobs.

At least five large employers were acquired in 2022 by private equity groups or corporations, and those new parent companies are now overseeing local plants and assessing this market.

Shaffer said conversations have begun that could result in new investment by several of those companies, which she described as potentially “very positive.” Presenting a united front, local and state EDC staff have been building new relationships and explaining their resources to help the new parent companies get acquainted with Indiana opportunities, she said.

Taconic grant advances

The EDC board approved a $50,000 EDIT grant for Taconic Biosciences, which is expanding its site at Indiana Gateway Industrial Park at Indiana 1 and Interstate 70 in Cambridge City during 2022-2023. County officials also must approve those grants.

The new local investment is estimated at nearly $6.5 million.

In its application, Taconic officials describe the company as a leading provider of research models (laboratory animals) used to accelerate advancements in human health.

Taconic is increasing staff to care for its animals and service the new building being constructed. The New York-based company is offering new local career advancement opportunities that require professional certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and supporting those who wish to be certified. That training for new workers is projected to cost $24,250.

This is the first EDIT funding request Taconic has made. The project also includes new fixtures and furniture, computers and information technology hardware.

At the time of application, Taconic had 63 full-time employees. Its goal is to add 12 new full-time workers this year and six more next year. At an hourly average wage of $20 not counting benefits, that would be a total payroll of $765,000 for the new jobs.

“This is wonderful news,” said EDC board president Jim King, a Cambridge City resident.

In other business

Because of the number of EDIT grants awarded this year and potential requests for EDIT funds in 2023, King said the board needs to prioritize the use of its dollars. He said it might be necessary to add usage restrictions and/or give fewer dollars per request to support more projects.

EDC staff are working with area organizations to address childcare concerns based on survey responses from employees and employers. Many respondents said childcare subsidies are their No. 1 or No. 2 priorities for benefits. A lot of respondents are relying on family or friends for childcare, and some are missing a lot of work days per year when care falls through.

More than 450 responses were received for the Home in Wayne survey targeted at the county’s high school students. The Home in Wayne campaign aims to retain and recruit potential workers.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.