GREENFIELD — It’s not that the phones aren’t ringing.
Business leaders interested in Progress Park in Greenfield — deemed shovel-ready by the state — call economic development director Skip Kuker a few times a week, eager to know more about the sites available in the business park north of Interstate 70.
But as the city of Greenfield invests $5.5 million in infrastructure upgrades to further developing Progress Park, Kuker knows those calls will be more frequent, an exciting prospect as he envisions what 250 acres of undeveloped land could become.
City leaders have earmarked funding to build roads and improve water and electricity services in Greenfield’s business park with the hope the hefty investment leads to more companies moving in.
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About six months ago, city officials struck a deal with China-based auto parts maker BeijingWest Industries to build an estimated $80 million manufacturing facility in Progress Park.
As part of the arrangement, city leaders agreed to upgrade utilities in the park to serve the facility — and any other businesses that follow suit.
The Greenfield City Council recently approved a funding plan for those improvements, estimated to cost about $5.5 million.
They’ll rely on tax increment finance funds — generated by taxes paid by businesses located in the TIF district — and Greenfield Utilities funding to cover the bills.
Opportunity Parkway, the main road leading to the industrial park off State Road 9, will be extended about half a mile, said Greenfield Utilities director Mike Fruth.
In addition, a new road will create an entrance to the park off County Road 300N.
Water, electricity and sewer services will also be extended to meet the needs of BWI and other development that pops up in the park.
Greenfield city councilman Gary McDaniel said city officials are responsible for providing utilities that meet the needs of taxpayers, including businesses. It’s not unusual for cities, towns and counties to agree to that type of work while negotiating a business deal, he said.
McDaniel said the improvements are a worthy investment because BWI has promised to create nearly 450 new jobs in the city by 2021 and will pay an estimated $9 million in taxes during the next 10 years.
Additionally, upgrades to the business park — zoned for industrial, retail, office and hotel development — might attract more business to the area while benefiting existing companies, he said.
Elanco Animal Health’s world headquarters has operated from the southeast side of the park since 2010, and construction is expected to start early next year on Elanco’s soon-to-be neighbor, Accolade Apartments, a 240-unit apartment complex by Indianapolis developer The Justus Companies.
Meanwhile, economic development leaders are currently marketing three sites in the park — the largest being about 66 acres. Altogether, some 250 acres are available for purchase, said Kuker, director of the Hancock Economic Development Council.
The upgrades in Progress Park will no doubt make the parcels easier to market, he said.
Companies typically want to start construction on new development as quickly as possible and look for sites that are already equipped to handle their production. When they don’t have to worry about utilities being established or roads being built, a piece of land becomes more desirable, Kuker said.
Development in Progress Park launched in 2009 with construction of Elanco’s world headquarters, which has grown to encompass five buildings and anchors the park. Just a few years ago, the park expanded, and in 2014, the area was named “shovel-ready” by the state, a coveted economic development title signaling it’s prime for development.
For years, city officials have planned for the infrastructure upgrades in the business park, Kuker said. Now, with BWI moving in, officials can justify the expense, he said.
The city’s work will be done alongside BWI construction and should be complete sometime next year, Fruth said.