HANCOCK COUNTY — Hancock Health officials and many others came together during Wednesday’s Hancock County Budget Committee meeting to present their proposal for a dual brand hotel and conference center at Hancock Gateway Park.

Rob Matt, senior vice president of Hancock Regional Hospital , started off the presentation and thanked the board for the opportunity to share their story and for past and present county commissioners’ partnership in 2017 and 2018 to allow Hancock Gateway Park to occur.

“From a hospital perspective and from a development perspective, I’m here to tell you I think we’ve done exactly what we said we would do,” Matt said. “We would build the best development that Hancock County has. We would only let the best developers in the park and do exactly what we thought needed to be done for the good of the county and for the good of the hospital ultimately.”

Harold Gibson of Greenfield-based H. Gibson Land Surveying, who is working with Hancock Health, said that since 2020, they have looked at 15 different hoteliers for the proposed project, but none had fit their standards, such as not wanting to commit to brand; certain amenities; the conference center or meeting space; and then wanting financial help.

However, with Sun Development, Gibson said their offer met the expectations of Hancock Health and is experienced and reliable.

Bharat Patel, chairman and CEO with Sun Development and Management Corporation, started his company in 1989 in the Beech Grove area and since then has had 72 ground up hotels across 16 states. Patel is also currently working with Johnson County to do a meeting space.

The dual brand hotel and conference center for Hancock County would be in Hancock Gateway Park right off the Mt. Comfort exit on I-70 and an overall approximate 144,770 square feet with 184 rooms between the two hotels. However, size and room numbers can change as they finish development of the hotel.

Mark Ericksson with CSO Architects said at the meeting these hotels would have one common entry with patio seating in the front and behind the building.

The two hotels would be a Home2 Suites and the Hilton Garden Inn, which would feature a restaurant and bar, pool, fitness center and more. with patio seating in the front and behind the building.

The conference center will consist of meeting rooms, which can be adjusted to accommodate size, and the ballroom can be subdivided into three areas if needed, also with a pre-function area.

Brigette Cook Jones, executive director of Hancock County Tourism, and Bob Mattsey, treasurer, spoke to the board in favor and support of the proposed development.

Jones said that, as the executive director, she is frequently getting phone calls from people asking about space to host conferences and meetings. Jones said other than the high school gyms or the Greenfield-Central Field House, there isn’t really another option.

“I get these calls all the time, and we’re turning away that business and that economic development that we could really use here in this county that will provide jobs and other resources for our community,” Jones said.

Jones said this project would also help generate sales tax, gas tax and food and beverage tax. Right now, Jones said that local entities that put together events have to travel outside the county to find space to host them, much like the Women Helping Women Gala that took place at Noblesville in October.

Mattsey said that since the convention center is a piece of tourism, the tourism commission will ask at the next county council meeting if they could be allowed to grant the use of the 5% innkeepers tax from the hotel to help pay the semi-annual bond payment for the $4 million bond that would be required to assist the construction of the convention center. The overall projected total cost would be $32 million.

“That is a good thing because it’s not something coming out of the county’s pocket in any way whatsoever,” Mattsey said.

It was later explained that the developer is responsible to pay the bond payments and the innkeepers tax goes to reduce that obligation. Any excess amount would go toward tourism, and if the amount falls short, it is the developer’s responsibility.

Mattsey said that this project “truly is a win-win for everybody” and that the “biggest winner in the project is going to be the county itself,” and gives the opportunity to show people Hancock County.

It was also said the bond would not be tax exempt because the improvements are private property and the obligation would be with the developer to make payments.

The project will also be on the agenda at the next county council meeting, 8:30 a.m. Dec. 13 when there will be a Q&A discussion about the presented project.