Prime property can mend fences: Earlham land sale on right course

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The process Earlham College has set up to sell 413 acres of prime Hamilton County acreage it expects to receive in its settlement with the Conner Prairie living-history museum is a silver lining to this otherwise stormy saga.

In the more than two years since Earlham touched off the Conner Prairie drama by firing the museum’s board, we’ve had nothing good to say in this space about Earlham’s handling of the situation, but the land sale is shaping up as an exception.

The undeveloped property at 146th Street and River Road has real estate developers large and small licking their chops. One of the largest undeveloped tracts on the east side of Carmel, the acreage could generate big returns for the Richmond college and whoever ultimately develops it.

To its credit, Earlham has hired a commercial real estate firm, NAI Olympia Partners Ltd., to manage the sale of the land through a request for proposals and is keeping Carmel planning officials in the loop regarding the property’s future. To level the playing field for prospective buyers, the college is providing costly environmental and engineering reports on the land. Providing these reports up front should make the cost of due diligence less expensive for developers and could speed up the closing process for the winning bidder.

Earlham has created a seven-member panel to review proposals and recommend to college trustees the best bid based on price, quality of the development proposed, and the likelihood of its receiving zoning approval.

We hope the Earlham trustees choose wisely. A quality development could go a long way toward healing wounds suffered by the community in the bitter museum dispute.

An enterprising winner

As we prepare to solicit nominations for the 2005 IBJ Enterprise Award, a former winner’s continuing success is worth mention.

Hat World, purchased last year by Tennessee-based Genesco Inc., is growing by leaps and bounds and lifting its parent company’s fortunes in the process.

Hat World was founded in 1995 and won the 2003 Enterprise Award, which recognizes a company or individual that seizes a business opportunity and achieves great success. A regular fixture on IBJ’s annual Fastest Growing Companies list, Hat World was tailor-made for the award. The company’s founders recognized before most anyone that there wasn’t a retailer concentrating on selling team caps to the legions of consumers eager to wear a hat sporting a favorite logo.

Hat World, still locally headquartered, is more dominant than ever, racking up sales gains that have sent the previously stagnant stock of its parent company soaring. Congratulations to Hat World-and to Genesco, for having the good sense to let Hat World’s team continue to work its magic from the firm’s hometown. Read more about the company in Greg Andrews’ Behind the News column on page4.

Go to www.IBJ.comand click the Make a Nomination link in the upper-right-hand corner to nominate a company for this year’s Enterprise Award, or look for the nomination form in next week’s IBJ.

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