by Dan Rafter
Lori Tubbs, president at Commercial Advantage/JCF Real Estate – a real estate company with offices in Chicago and Merrillville, Ind. – says that the industrial market in Northwest Indiana is like a set of stairs: It’s moved steadily up since the glum days of the Great Recession.
Part of the reason? It’s easier to get commercial deals closed here, whether for industrial projects or any other, Tubbs said.
“Everyone is on a first-name basis here,” she said. “There is an ability to get business done here that has been nothing short of wonderful. I give credit to groups such as the Northwest Indiana Forum and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Then there are all the local governments. They are all working hard to bring businesses here. Companies notice that approach.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, for instance, recently traveled to Germany to entice businesses to open operations in Indiana, Tubbs said. The mayors of three key Northwest Indiana communities are traveling to Las Vegas later this month, also to attract new businesses to Indiana.
“The important people are reaching out for businesses to come here,” Tubbs said. “That matters. Companies don’t want to find the cities that want them. They want those cities to find them.”
What would provide another boost to the Northwest Indiana industrial market? Tubbs says that the region needs more speculative industrial space.
Tubbs said that once a greater number of modern, industrial spec buildings rise in the region, Northwest Indiana’s industrial market will enjoy even bigger numbers.
“It’s all a matter of seeing courage build,” Tubbs said. “It will happen. The developers who traditionally choose Chicago are now taking a longer look at Northwest Indiana.”
The Northwest Indiana region boasts too many positives not to attract industrial users and developers, Tubbs said. Several major highways run through the region. Rail systems snake across the area. And the Port of Indiana provides another option for companies hoping to move materials across the country.
In the future, says Tubbs, Northwest Indiana will be dotted with a larger number of data centers and technology firms. That’s because the region’s officials are doing all that they can to attract these high-tech clients.
“They are putting together new policies and incentives to encourage these companies to locate in Northwest Indiana,” Tubbs said.
An example of this can be found earlier this year. Gov. Pence in March signed into law a package of tax cuts designed to give Indiana one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. The tax cuts would drop the state’s corporate income tax from 6.5 percent to 4.9 percent by the year 2021. This would give Indiana the second-lowest corporate income tax in the country.
The law will also give counties the option to eliminate the business personal property tax on new equipment and spare businesses that have less than $20,000 worth of equipment from paying personal property taxes.
“Indiana is doing such a good job of making it appealing to do business in the state,” Tubbs said. “That makes it nice to work in real estate in this region.”
A state in solid financial shape
It helps, too, that Indiana boasts solid state finances. The state certainly is in better financial health than is neighboring Illinois.
Donald Koliboski, director of regional economic development with the Northwest Indiana Forum, says that Indiana is only one of nine states that can claim a AAA credit rating by all three major credit-rating agencies.
“We have a great financial history here,” Koliboski said. “We have dramatically cut our corporate tax rates during the last four years. Out tax and economic climate make it conducive to doing business here.”
Karen Lauerman, director of marketing and communications with the Northwest Indiana Forum, said that the region’s location is also a significant plus for industrial users. After all, the region is within a day’s drive of 80 percent of the U.S. population, Laureman said.
“We have Lake Michigan. We have an international port. We have regional airports. We have access to Chicago,” Lauerman said. “And it’s not only access to the business amenities of Chicago. We also have access to all of the amenities of Chicago. People who do business here and who live here can have the big-city Chicago lifestyle by still reside and work in Northwest Indiana.”
As if industrial users need another reason to locate in Northwest Indiana, there is also the property-tax situation. As Koliboski says, property taxes in Northwest Indiana – and across the state – are limited to 3 percent of a business property’s assessed valuation.
“That is locked in stone,” said Koliboski. “It is in our state constitution. There is property tax certainty here for industrial users. You put that together with everything else that Northwest Indiana offers, and you can see why industrial users would want to come here.”