City bumps funding for GDC, hears marketing efforts

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Talk about your good timing.

Just as the workload of the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center appears to be escalating in the aftermath of the Dixie Chopper closing and other economic development considerations coming into play, the City Council has granted an increase in GDC funding for the first time in five years.

The city will bump its Development Center funding contribution from $45,000 annually to $50,000 following unanimous action on a motion by Councilman Steve Fields at the January City Council session. The county plans to make the identical increase in funding, Development Center Director Kristin Clary told the Council.

Clary said her office, which includes Deputy Director Tami VanRensselaer, has recently taken on the added responsibility of regional planning, which is a new requirement for OCRA (Office of Community and Rural Affairs) and how it scores grant applications. Putnam and Owen counties are partnering for regional documentation in applying for OCRA grants, she said.

Clary said the Development Center will also be focusing on new business attraction more than it has in recent years.

“A lot of times we focus on our existing businesses,” she said. “They have workforce issues, and we work a lot with our local employers and educators, but we don’t focus as much on new business attraction. One, because we don’t really have the workforce available, and two, because we don’t have asset inventory available.”

She recounted how the 100,000-square-foot former TechnoTrim building at the northwest corner of Fillmore Road and State Road 240 came on line after IAC, which had used it for several years, vacated the Harold Force-owned building.

“Immediately, Crown Equipment snapped that up,” Clary said, “so we weren’t able to market that.

“But with the closing of Dixie Chopper, that affords us an opportunity. Within the next year to 18 months they will probably be vacating the shell building or the spec building (west of the T intersection stopsign on Fillmore Road) that we have in the industrial park.”

Clary said she has recently met with other economic development directors from the region and discussed a funding strategy to help market such facilities.

“We’re asking the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Commission) to fund us to go on trips around to site selectors to establish those relationships, where they want to know any time a business goes out or you have a shell building come on line or you’ve built something new. So I will be able to market that with the potential of being able to bring something to our community -- unless one of our existing companies wants that building as well.

“We’ve got some real opportunities in the coming months,” Clary added. “We know that eventually Dixie has closed operations but they have kept that (the spec building) open so they can supply parts to their existing mowers. So they are not manufacturing but they are distributing.

“Right now they are still in that facility for at least a year, but that still allows us to market that building, and if we get some kind of interest through manufacturing or distribution we certainly will pursue that.”

Responding to a question from Councilman Mark Hammer, Clary noted that the 50,000-square-foot shell building is still owned by Garmong Construction Services, which has a commitment with Dixie Chopper for a year with a negotiation process to continue after that if they need it, she said.

“Since they’ve been using it as warehousing,” Hammer suggested, “it’s pretty much still a shell building.”

“It’s pretty clean, yes,” Clary replied, noting that the facility is easily expandable to 100,000 square feet.

Mayor Bill Dory, who was GDC director when the spec building was built, agreed.

“They’ve taken pretty good care of it too,” he said, adding, “there’s a little bit of office space in it, and a restroom.”

Dory noted that he and Clary attended a recent conference in Chicago and were already talking to prospects about the spec/shell building in Greencastle.

“There’s not much real estate available in that size anywhere in west-central Indiana,” Dory said. “There’s a lot of big buildings over there in Plainfield. If you want 500,000 square feet, there’s several available. But there’s not a lot of small business kind of stuff available right now. So we’re hoping we could line somebody up and Garmong might have to say, ‘Sorry, Dixie, you may have to vacate’ at the end of the year.”

Clary and Dory also addressed the availability of the Dixie Chopper plant at Fillmore.

“Once we get a better handle on what’s going on with the actual plant out in Fillmore,” Dory said, “Kristin will probably be working on that, too.”

She sort of already is, Clary quickly responded.

“We’ve actually talked to representatives of Art Evans,” she said of the Dixie Chopper creator, business founder and building owner. “So we’re working to get together with him.”

Clary said the Development Center often gets inquiries from small garage operations that have overgrown their distribution roots and are looking for larger facilities.

“So when that happens, we just don’t have any available inventory to even subdivide some space,” Clary said. “And the potential for this (Dixie Chopper plant) is huge with it being even further east and closer to the (Indianapolis) Airport. We’re going to try to talk to Art about the potential opportunity for possibly getting something in there that would need distribution, so we’re pursing that as well. And while that’s not in the city limits, it does impact our county.”

The old Dixie Chopper plant, Dory noted, is “kind of set up as multiple buildings.”

“So that may lend itself to actually supporting several businesses out there,” he suggested.

In the meantime, the Development Center will have a bit more funding now to possibly help make that happen.

Mayor Dory reminded the Council that the city’s share of Development Center funding has come from the EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) Fund in recent history, not from the city budget.

“We get a tremendous return from it no matter where the money comes from,” Council President Adam Cohen responded.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: