Another employer exploring Indiana for major project

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The future site of the GM/Samsung SDI electric vehicle battery plant in New Carlisle. (IIB Photo/Clint Erbacher)

St. Joseph County economic development leaders say another big company is eyeing the New Carlisle area—about 15 miles west of South Bend—with an investment similar in size and scale to the $3 billion General Motors and Samsung SDI electric vehicle battery plant announced earlier this year.

In a meeting last week, the county’s redevelopment commission approved a facilitation and reimbursement agreement with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Razor5, a limited liability company from Delaware, so that the company can survey several privately owned parcels in the New Carlisle Economic Development Area.

Revelations of the company’s interest in the area come just as county officials sought to expand the boundaries of the New Carlisle Economic Development Area in a decision this week highly unpopular among nearby residents.

“They need to take a pause,” said Steve Francis, who lives 10 miles east of the economic development area. “The expansion has been rushed through very quickly.”

County officials, however, say that their steps are necessary to fund infrastructure improvements and actually give homeowners more bargaining power for property in the area.

“We’ve had conversations about this for four months back,” St. Joseph County Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol told county councilors Tuesday night. “We’ve met the statutory requirements (for public notice). We haven’t asked for special meetings along the way to keep this in the timeline, but we are on a tight timeline. This has to move forward. This needs to keep moving forward to meet obligations and meet the requirements of this project.”

Another big project on the horizon

Little information has been shared about Razor5 in county filings. Delaware state records show Razor5 LLC was incorporated in July.

Schalliol said told Inside INdiana Business on Tuesday that Razor5 represents a development company working with a light industrial user that could be similar in size to GM. Their plans could bring as many “a couple thousand” new jobs to the area, Schalliol said.

The GM plant, by comparison, is expected to create between 1,700 and 1,900 manufacturing jobs at its planned New Carlisle location.

County officials say they have chosen not to name the company behind Razor5 yet because their work is still preliminary. Schalliol said agreements signed last week allow the company to do due diligence, which includes exploring zoning requirements and surveying soil conditions.

“When we did the GM project a year ago, we had all that work already done,” Schalliol said. “These are new sites that we didn’t have all that work done, so that’s why this group is coming in doing their own due diligence.”

Bill Schalliol discusses Razor5’s interest in New Carlisle.

The parcels included in their survey total about 800 acres in areas neighboring the 680-acre site where GM plans to build its 2.5 million-square-foot facility.

Additionally, Razor5 has agreed to put $1 million in escrow on behalf of the land owners with half of that to be applied to the purchase of the property should the company move forward. If not, the landowners would keep the full $1 million.

Expanding development area boundaries

Razor5’s consideration of New Carlisle comes as county officials move forward with an expansion of the surrounding economic development area. Officials say the step is needed to finance bonds for infrastructure projects like road, sewer and water line upgrades needed to support the GM plant. A public hearing on the county’s plans to engage in a $50 million bond is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 12.

Under the expansion, county officials have added about 1,500 acres to the existing 5,500-acre economic development area. The county redevelopment commission unanimously approved the expansion Tuesday morning with an 8-1 county council vote following later Tuesday evening. Only Councilmember Joseph Thomas, representing the New Carlisle area, voted against the expansion. Though, Councilmember Dan Schaetzle said he would recommend, after his favorable vote, a pause on future development in the area.

The decision to expand was highly unpopular among New Carlisle residents who packed an informational open house the night before and shouted down county officials with concerns that the development area was already too big and that not enough information has been shared publicly about future projects

In meetings Tuesday, those opposed to the expansion called it industrial creep and a premature land grab rushed through over the last three weeks.

Residents also openly expressed frustration with a decision to add about 300 parcels in the economic area to an acquisition list which county officials could use to negotiate property sales.

Schalliol said the county has no current plans to use eminent domain to acquire property—a process that would first require approvals from several other public bodies—but that the redevelopment commission would like to negotiate directly with landowners for property around the intersection of S.R. 2 and Larrison Boulevard where traffic is likely to increase. He said other right-of-way projects along the S.R. 2 corridor near Snowberry, Willow and Timothy roads could be considered in the future.

“It’s best practice to add properties to the acquisition list,” Schalliol told reporters Tuesday morning. “It’s not a land grab. We’re not going to go out and put 309 properties on and work under the cover of darkness to go acquire 309 properties. It really is a process. Where there is acquisition, there’s processes that need to be done, or opportunities to do public improvement, to work with property owners to acquire property.”

Bill Schalliol talks about the county’s acquisition list in the New Carlisle Economic Development Area.

Tension among New Carlisle residents

Schalliol’s comments to residents on Monday, however, did little to ease tensions among some residents already distrusting of the county’s plans.

“The biggest thing is our property values are probably going to go down, or not hold up as well as they could, because we’re in this zone,” said James Saylor, whose home was added this week to the newly expanded area. “We’re in limbo.”

James Saylor expresses his concerns about property values now that his home has been added to the New Carlisle Economic Development Area.

The conversation also sparked broader questions about how the county plans to handle an influx of new workers and the housing and school district expansions that are likely to come along with the new development.

“When you talk about employment, that’s when my concern goes to the labor force,” New Carlisle resident Mitchell Hooton said. “My company that I presently work for, we’re always looking for people … We have a hard time just finding quality help for our little company. I can’t imagine what it’d be like for these companies to come in here thinking they’re going to get 1,000 employees.”

Mitchell Hooten shares his thoughts on another large employer’s interest in the New Carlisle area.

Schalliol said the county has been working with state legislators at potential housing tools to sustain an influx of new workers in the area. He said he spoke with multiple interested homebuilders Monday night.

“We’re looking big picture,” Schalliol said. “When we do this planning, we work with our planning team, we work with other groups to make sure that we’re doing this project so it’s sustainable.”

More information on the expanded New Carlisle Economic Development Area is available online at sjcindiana.com/2320/2023-NCEDA-Plan.

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3 thoughts on “Another employer exploring Indiana for major project

    1. Twenty-five miles due west of New Carlisle is Lake Michigan. I think that would be an ample, dependable source.

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