by Dan Rafter
Location and lower costs. Those are the two big reasons that Ed Wabick, principal of Paine/Wetzel TCN Worldwide, cites when explaining why more industrial users are considering setting up shop in the communities of Northwest Indiana.
“You’re nearer the larger customers like BP Amoco and some of the larger steel makers. That has a lot to do with it,” Wabick said. “And the cost of doing business here is definitely more attractive than it is in Illinois. That is another driving force.”
End users are familiar with these benefits. For proof, just look at the major industrial projects going on in the Northwest region of Indiana. ITR America at the end of 2013 completed a 100,000-square-foot build-to-suit facility in Hobart, Ind. Munster Steel is now building a 123,000-square-foot center in Hammond, Ind., for its operations.
Urschel Laboratories is building a 350,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Chesterton, Ind., in the Coffee Creek Center. This project, which also includes a new headquarters building for the company, will cost $104 million.
Then there’s chemical company MonoSol, which recently bought a 23-acre site in the Portage, Ind., business park AmeriPlex at the Port. The company plans to build a 300,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.
Those are big projects. And they’re locating here because of location and the lower costs of doing business in Indiana. There’s a reason that Northwest Indiana is dotted with signs saying “Illinoyed by higher taxes?” The billboards are one way that the state it enticing businesses to locate in Indiana where the taxes – and labor costs – are lower.
Wabick said that increased deal activity began in Northwest Indiana last year. This year has been just as active, he adds.
“A couple of years ago, you’d get a handful of deals that looked at Indiana,” Wabick said. “That’s changed. Now a lot of people are looking at Indiana as an alternative to Illinois.”
There is a challenge, though: lack of product. As Wabick says, there is a lack of buildings for industrial users to move into. He refers to this dilemma as the “only thing lacking” in the Northwest Indiana market.
“The problem is partly in finding the right land that you can develop into a business park right over the border,” Wabick said.
The good news? There is some spec building taking place in the region. Just not enough of it.
Build-to-suit activity is stronger. Paine/Wetzel, for instance, is in the early stages of working with a client to develop 50 acres in the Northwest Indiana community of East Chicago into Suppliers Park of Northwest Indiana. That project, which is in the planning stages now, will most likely see some infrastructure work in the next 30 to 60 days, Wabick said.
“We are trying to get developers and investors in Northwest Indiana to build newer buildings,” Wabick said. “We need more inventory so that there are more options for users who come to the marketplace. The Northwest Indiana community and the state of Indiana are supporting that. They think it is important to increase the inventory and bring more jobs into the area.”