by Mitchell Kirk
With the Hoosier Heartland Highway expected to provide the area with a wider, more efficient route from Lafayette to Fort Wayne in November, the county is planning on using these advantages along with existing railroads in the area to create an industrial park.
Cass County Commissioner President Dave Arnold said the idea to create an industrial park has been stirring since the inception of the Hoosier Heartland Highway.
“With all the rail and now with the Hoosier Heartland in the same location, that makes it very feasible for businesses or the industries that would come to the area,” Arnold said.
Although he was unable to discuss specifics, Arnold said the commission has already received inquiries from several businesses interested in developing in the area.
While members of the Cass County Redevelopment Commission said they were eager to begin finding ways to bring businesses to the park, Connie Neininger, a member of the redevelopment commission, said their first priority would be to ensure the park would work for businesses already in the area.
“We don’t want to open the door and say, ‘everyone come to Cass County,’” Neininger said, “because it might not be beneficial overall.”
One way Neininger said the commission will go about doing this is by soliciting businesses that would have a positive relationship with the existing businesses. Citing the agricultural processing and metal stamping plants in the area, she said the commission will likely conduct research on businesses that could benefit plants like these, which would in turn be benefited as well.
Arnold spoke to this point by citing The Andersons ethanol plant, which produces a byproduct from which a corn oil can be derived, sold and shipped.
Neininger said determining what kinds of companies can be supported will also be based on available infrastructure in the area, like water, sewers, roads and rail access.
Another factor will be assessing if the county has the workforce to support potential businesses. Part of this, Neininger said, would include finding out what companies pay in comparison to the average county wage, among other factors.
In August, the Logansport City Council also expressed a desire to expand through economic development by allocating up to $100,000 toward a study regarding annexation in that area.
When asked whether the two parties’ goals would conflict, representatives from both sides said the process was going to require communication and working together.
“I don’t think anyone wants to stop any community from growing,” Neininger said. “We do realize that Logansport is our largest community in Cass County, so we need to work together.”
“What they’re doing doesn’t change our focus,” said Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin. “I think we all recognize the opportunities that are there. Hopefully we’ll have the same results.”
Franklin also said he was not looking to enter into a conflict with the county commission.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter which plan survives, it’s about what we can do to improve the area through economic development opportunities.”
Neininger said the commission’s proposed park would be mostly funded by tax increment financing for its ability to entice companies to develop, in turn leading to the potential overall economic improvement of the area.
Arnold said funding from the County Economic Development Income Tax, or CEDIT, would be used as well.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.