An area long considered one of the most promising sites in the state for economic development is finally getting traction.
A year ago, the budding WestGate @ Crane Technology Park barely had opened its first building.
Now the park, which is next to the secretive Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane in southwestern Indiana, anticipates having filled four buildings with 250 technicians, engineers and administrators by the end of the year.
The tech park, which extends into Daviess, Greene and Martin counties, will have 250 workers before the end of the year making an average of $50,000 each, said Ron Arnold, the point person for the park. He also is executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp.
"We still have challenges, but considering where we started, which was corn and soybean fields, it's starting to get a get a head of steam up," Arnold said.
Economic development experts long have believed the warfare center, which develops some of the military's most sophisticated electronics, could spawn not only outposts for defense contractors but also office and laboratories for companies interested in turning military technology into consumer and business products.
Adding to the optimism is the I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville; the road is expected to pass within two miles of the tech park.
So far, only defense contractors have taken space in four buildings now occupied or under construction. Those companies include EG&G Technical Services Inc., a Dahlgren, Va., division of San Francisco-based URS Corp.; San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp.; and Navmar Applied Sciences Corp. of Warminster, Penn.
The buildings together have a total of 109,000 square feet.
Developing the tech park is WestGate @ Crane Development Co. LLC, which is partly owned by Indianapolis architect and developer Dale Ankrom. Another partner is Kendall Construction Group Inc., an Indianapolis developer who has worked with Ankrom on housing projects.
Hamilton County attorney Steve Henke and Gerald Throgmartin initially were part of the development team but aren't any longer.
Throgmartin-whose son Jerry is chairman and CEO of HHGregg Inc. and who played a key role in building the Indianapolis-based appliance and electronics retailer before retirement-is available to help with financing as needed, said Mike Snyder, a spokesman for the developer.