EDITORIAL: Tough love for struggling park: State’s high standards deserve praise

Tough love for struggling park State’s high standards deserve praise

It would be easy for the state’s certified technology park initiative to degenerate into a handout program with little or no accountability.

If communities in all corners of the state get a park, along with the accompanying tax benefits and grants, everyone’s happy, right?

Perhaps. But for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to deploy resources in the most potent manner, it must focus on the parks with the potential to have the greatest economic-development punch.

That’s why we are heart ened by the hard line the IEDC recently took with Shelbyville’s Intelliplex. Because the largely undeveloped, 141-acre park has not met expectations, the state has put it on a short leash. It extended its tech certification for two years instead of the standard four, for example, and said it must attract at least 50 full-time, high-tech jobs.

Shelbyville residents and leaders are grumbling about the decision, as IBJ reported in its Oct. 15 edition. But the reality is, if the park hasn’t made major progress by the time it comes up for recertification in 2009, it doesn’t deserve to stay in the program. That wouldn’t be a death knell; it could continue to attract tenants, just not with the special tools afforded certified tech parks.

The technology park program began under Democratic governors Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan, who certified 15 parks in the state. Gov. Mitch Daniels has added three more, bringing the total to 18.

The parks are allowed to capture up to $5 million in state sales and personal income taxes generated within their borders for reinvestment. They also are eligible for state grants. Grants so far have topped $15 million.

The program is a great idea, and overall it’s working. Just look at what’s happening in Anderson, home to the Flagship Enterprise Center, a certified technology park where auto-industry veterans are helping to spark innovation, such as clean and safe batteries for hybrid vehicles.

The certified park that extends from the northwest side of downtown Indianapolis up to 16th Street holds great promise as a life sciences corridor-thanks in part to the wealth of hospitals and medical-research facilities already in the area.

To be sure, rural communities, like Shelbyville, face larger obstacles. For one thing, there generally are fewer economic-development assets to attempt to leverage. But the development of Warsaw in northern Indiana into a hub for orthopedics manufacturing shows pursuing lofty economic-development goals for smaller communities isn’t a lost cause.

That’s why we think IEDC’s measured response to Intelliplex’s problems was on target. It’s too early to judge the park a failure and pull the plug. But it’s time for results. By ratcheting up the pressure, the state creates a sense of urgency. Let’s see if the backers of Intelliplex are up to the challenge.

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