CRE Midwest

Industrial developments seeking out Northwest Indiana for business, bargains

Northwest Indiana is experiencing an influx of new industrial developments with an increasing number of Chicago-based companies jumping the state border for business.

Northwest Indiana is experiencing an influx of new industrial developments with an increasing number of Chicago-based companies jumping the state border for business.

Karen Lauerman, president and CEO of Lake County IN Economic Alliance (LCEA), said her group has currently been speaking to several companies about wanting to do business in the area.

There are many reasons why Northwest Indiana is so attractive to users—the location is one of them.

“They continue to see the value in moving operations, many prefer Lake County as it is the most immediate location in Chicago,” she said. “But Indiana and in particular, Lake County, is attractive to companies from around the globe because of our location and the state’s better business climate and overall lower cost of doing business.”

Lauerman explained that its location is within a day’s drive of 80 percent of the population and only minutes from Chicago and the workforce.

She also pointed to the area’s supply base and logistics infrastructure—the road, rail, water and air, and Lake Michigan. Lauerman added that Northwest Indiana has a disciplined state government with its balanced budget, low levels of debt and no looming liabilities, such as pensions.

Northwest Indiana is a low cost, high value location that has no inventory tax, and the property tax is capped at 3 percent. Indiana has also decreased its income tax rate by 2 percent this year, and features lower labor and workman’s compensation.

And as for its developmental organization, Lauerman said the establishment of LCEA is a huge step forward for the county, Northwest Indiana and for the state itself because LCEA “is a one- stop shop to foster and facilitate the economic development process.”

Her agency works with the regional EDC, the NWI Forum and the Indiana Economic Corporation on a state level. She said with LCEA’s assistance, communities are becoming more understanding of their critical role in the process and decision making, and are adopting an open-for-business attitude.

LCEA serves all of Lake County's 20-plus municipal entities, which help enhance opportunities for Gary, Hammond, Highland and Hobart that already have economic development professionals and even facilitates the process for those communities that don’t.

One of the recent developments in the Lake County area is a Class A, three-story office building at the intersection of Kennedy Avenue and I-80 and I-94, only minutes away from the Illinois border. Lauerman said an additional office building, along with retail and office buildings, are being considered, too.

Additionally, Holladay Properties acquired a considerable amount of property for Ameriplex-Southlake in Hobert, Indiana. Lauerman added that the firm is also building on its Ameriplex-Crossroads Business/Industrial Park in Merrilville.

Bucknell Development is also adding to its NorthWind Crossings industrial park in Hobart and expects to break ground for a new building shortly.

According to Raeann Trakas, director of marketing and communications at Northwest Indiana Forum, Porter County is undergoing a couple of developments, too.

She said the Lakes of Valparaiso planned development is moving along quickly, with the main road completion and groundbreaking on the apartments slated for this summer. This development will have more than 400 apartments combined with commercial and light retail on 140 acres off I-49 on the north end of the city.

Kelly Disser, executive vice president of industrial services for NAI Hiffman, said the project’s location right on I- 49 provides visibility on a state road, great access and flexibility since it's very close to US-30 and closer to I-80.

Although construction is just getting started, Disser said NAI Hiffman has launched a full-blown national marketing campaign to attract attention to the park. He said there’s already infrastructure that’s being located and construction crews have broken ground on some parts of the park. Crews have begun constructing the main boulevard, which, Disser said, will run through the center of the park and will connect Vale Park Road at the north end of the park to Evans Avenue on the south end.

"Valparaiso has been receptive and great to work with," Disser said. "They've been supportive of the development and it's always a plus to work with a municipality like that as well as the county."

NAI Hiffman is involved with the marketing and development of industrial and office buildings and Disser said he believes the company can deliver two buildings on the industrial side—a 350,000-square-foot building and another one between 200,000 and 250,000 square feet.

“We’d love to put a spec industrial building up there, so we’re actively looking for capital partners for the spec development as well as users to come make the lakes the home,” Disser said.

He explained the reasons for extending its industrial developments in Northwest Indiana are because Indiana continues to be a pro-business state and has great access to major interstates, supportive counties and municipalities.

The other developments in Porter County include two, 20-acre sites at Coffee Creek that are being promoted for high-end commercial business, and a possible data center.

Trakas said the developable land and available land across the county is drawing interest, including the 80-acre Pope property on I-49 in Chesterton.

In fact, the Port of Indiana had a record-breaking year. Trakas mentioned that there is additional industrial land available near the mills.

Don Koliboski, vice president of economic development at LCEA, said location is a major factor drawing tenants to the park.

And the majority of inquiries LCEA receives, he said, are for manufacturing, distribution and logistics, customer support and service centers and increasingly, the food processing and distribution sector.