Growth targeted in shell proposal

GREENFIELD — The county’s economic development leaders are pushing for constructing an empty building in hopes that having a ready-made facility might attract area businesses.

More than half of the industries eyeing Hancock County ask about an existing building where they can set up shop; but locally, they have few options to choose from, which often ends the conversation about locating in the community, Hancock Economic Development Council director Skip Kuker said.

The number of empty facilities in the county is small. In Greenfield, it’s zero, but city officials have proposed erecting a building — estimated to cost about $3 million after land acquisition, site improvements are made and utilities are set up — for companies to consider as a way to help meet their needs and to spur economic development.

There’s no specific company in mind for the building, and city officials are still exploring the possibility. They’re considering building just the shell of the facility — at least 50,000 square feet and 32 feet tall — and setting up the needed utilities. Some features would be purposely left unfinished, such as the floor, to give as much flexibility as possible to a future tenant. Then, the city would market the building to find a business to purchase or lease the property.

City utilities director Mike Fruth said officials would consider a variety of sites for the building but would likely look at the north side of the city, where there already is a strong industrial presence.

The city is considering using tax-increment financing district funds for the project. TIF funds are generated by businesses in the TIF district that pay property taxes, which are used for improvements, usually infrastructure, in the TIF district.

The Greenfield Redevelopment Commission, which oversees how TIF dollars are spent, asked Fruth and Kuker to explore the possibility and bring more details in coming weeks.

Kuker said Hancock County is in a great location to attract industries, but with few large, vacant buildings, the county is often overlooked by businesses that don’t want to have to build.

“Boy, if I had one of these, I think we could literally put ourselves on the map,” he said. “I think this is an exciting prospect for Greenfield.”

Fruth said other cities across the state have shell buildings, and building one would help spur economic development in Greenfield. The venture is one the city can afford to take, and the timing is right, he said.

Officials would expect to earn back the city’s investment once the building is sold. The investment could lead to more jobs for residents and more money for the city, as the business would pay taxes, Fruth said.

And having a vacant building would be a good marketing tool for the city, he added.

“We’re out of the running for about half of those requests for information,” Fruth said. “It puts us in the game.”

Mayor Chuck Fewell said he’s excited about the possibility of constructing a shell building.

“For people looking to locate here, that will be a real asset,” he said.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or