A company interested in building a new rail-served transloading, processing and warehousing facility is receiving logistical help from Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County.

A $1 million community rail incentive had been offered in 2016 as part of Blue Buffalo’s plans to build a pet food manufacturing facility at Midwest Industrial Park.

However, momentum slowed during the pandemic and Blue Buffalo’s acquisition by General Mills, and the incentive expired.

As Blue Buffalo grew, it found a third-party rail operator interested in coming to Richmond. EDC’s board president, Sherrilyn Johnson, said the development is an even better opportunity for the area because a local incentive now could benefit additional companies.

The operator, currently identified as Project Thomas, would serve Blue Buffalo but also have capacity for pet food producers from Richmond and other regional manufacturers if they desired its services.

Thomas plans to invest $39 million to build the new rail spur and related upgrades to access Norfolk Southern Railway freight line for a projected volume of 1,400 rail cars per year. It would create 30 new jobs in management, office and laborer roles with a combined average wage of $27 per hour plus benefits.

Richmond Redevelopment Commission wants to provide aid but can’t give a grant directly to a private entity, so EDC’s board voted April 3 to be a passthrough for the transaction.

In other business

  • EDC’s board voted for a $25,000 EDIT grant for a local company previously known as Safety Zone. It plans to add 49 new jobs between now and 2025 and invest $726,000 in machinery and equipment. Supply Source Enterprises acquired Safety Zone and has since consolidated operations from Toledo, Ohio, moving warehousing and distribution to Richmond. It has three Richmond locations and plans to rent the long-vacant former Spartech building for more warehousing.
  • An industrial space needs survey was completed, and of nine respondents, five said they need space. EDC is working on a report for real estate developers who might be interested in building.
  • The board reapproved a $50,000 grant for Taconic Biosciences in Cambridge City. Taconic planned to add 18 jobs, but now expects 14. The change in investment is nominal and Taconic still qualifies for the same amount. 
  • Make My Move update: For the program aiming to recruit 20 remote workers, four have successfully moved to Richmond; four have accepted offers and are finalizing plans; and five pending offers await acceptance.
  • Local organizations attracted 77 residents interested in expunging felony records. Some were eligible to work with Indiana Legal Services or private attorneys at reduced rates. Others are not yet eligible but learned about the process. Attendance doubled from the previous session, and a third will be offered. EDC officials said it was a win for the community to have residents potentially eligible to improve employment possibilities.
  • The board approved a $1,950 environmental review for three buildings before they can be demolished through a controlled burn for industrial park expansions. City of Richmond will reimburse EDC.
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A version of this article appeared in the April 12 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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