Six sites named ‘Shovel Ready’: State program designed to speed permit process for fast-track developers

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State officials have added another arrow to their quiver of economic-development incentives meant to attract companies to Indiana.

A new pilot program, known as Shovel Ready, certifies land that can be rapidly developed. The aim is to make the properties more attractive to companies by cutting the time it takes to navigate the permitting process.

“The ability to expedite a company’s development will make us more competitive than perhaps we have been in the past,” said Chris Pfaff, director of business development for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. “It seems companies want to move much more quickly than they have in the past.”

At no time was that more evident than when Honda Motor Co. fast-tracked its purchase of roughly 500 acres in Decatur County to build its $550 million assembly plant. The land is not part of the Shovel Ready program, but nearby property in the Greensburg/Decatur County Rail & Busi- ness Park is.

The remaining sites receiving certification are:

Anson Phase II North, Boone County

Information Technology Park, Columbus

Silverado Park, Fort Wayne

Enterprise Park II, Greencastle

Grissom Aeroplex Industrial Park, Miami County

The parcels have undergone an environmental inspection that qualifies them for expedited permitting with state regulatory agencies to allow quick turnaround. State officials say the program should cut normal permitting time up to 30 percent.

Approval times vary depending on the types of permits sought. Air permits, for instance, normally take 120 days to 270 days to complete, depending upon the emissions a facility will generate.

Certified sites will be highlighted on the IEDC’s Site Selection Database, an online resource that allows site-selection consultants and businesses to research available commercial and industrial properties.

Big selling point

The extra exposure led the Boone County Economic Development Corp. to submit the 30-page application in support of the industrial portion of the mammoth Anson project near Whitestown.

“That’s a big selling point for us and why we wanted to commit to this,” said Kristie Fessel McKillip, executive director of the Boone County EDC. “It’s going to make prospects aware of our site more than a site that doesn’t have the designation.”

Duke Realty Co. and Browning Investments Inc. have teamed to develop the $300 million industrial component of locally based Duke’s 1,700-acre mixeduse Anson project.

The partnership, which also combines locally based Browning’s $446 million CentraLogistics industrial park in Plainfield, will be responsible for about 38 industrial buildings totaling 20 million square feet.

Each company is developing the properties in its respective project, but will jointly market and lease the buildings. The first under construction, a 630,000-square-foot speculative industrial building at Anson, should be available for occupancy by early January. The Anson project will feature 24 industrial buildings totaling 7.5 million square feet when finished within the next decade.

The Shovel Ready program should prove especially valuable in instances when prospects want a building constructed quickly, said Charlie Podell, a senior vice president at Duke.

“Our guys tend to have huge issues in terms of getting [permits] through, especially in big cities,” he said. “This is going to give them a degree of comfort that [Boone County] will really jump for us.”

Officials are touting the program as an inexpensive economic development tool that could give Indiana an edge over other states. Indiana provides $10,000 in matching grants for preparatory site work and so far has chipped in $20,000, said Ryan Kitchell, director of the Indiana Finance Authority. Submitting applications is left to the property owners and municipalities.

The parameters differ greatly from Ohio’s version. It launched the Job Ready Sites program after voters in November approved a $2 billion public works economic development bond package that included $150 million in bond proceeds to be issued during the next seven years.

Funds cover costs of land and building acquisition, infrastructure and utility improvements, site preparation, building construction and demolition, and environmental assessments.

Governor’s pledge

Shovel Ready is modeled after a New York initiative that Gov. Mitch Daniels included in his campaign pledge. The 2005 legislation creating the program was part of his economic development agenda.

The ability to lop time from a building schedule could benefit the state’s marketing efforts, said Larry Gigerich, managing director of Ginovus LLC, a locally based firm offering economic development services to business.

“Companies obviously like that because the sooner they can get a facility online, the sooner they can start generating revenue out of that facility,” he said. “And the time lines for companies, in terms of making decisions, gets shorter and shorter as time goes by.”

In selecting the six sites for Shovel Ready designation, the state received 13 applications. Officials continue to work with the remaining seven applicants to shore up their proposals to get the sites certified.

The state expects to accept another round of applications during the fourth quarter of this year. The goal is to have cer- tified sites sprinkled throughout the state, said Pam Fisher, the IEDC’s regulatory ombudsman.

A group of nine state agencies known collectively as the Fast Access Site Team approves site certification.

Besides the governor’s office, IEDC and IFA, members include: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana State Department of Homeland Security.

The IFA and IEDC had been co-leading the Shovel Ready program. The IEDC is in the process of assuming oversight, however. Leaders say it makes more sense for the economic-development agency to spearhead the effort.

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