Editorial: Lebanon officials were right to greenlight innovation district

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

We understand the objections of Boone County residents opposed to the development of thousands of acres of farmland next to their homes for a massive research and development park.

But sometimes the disruption caused for a few must be tolerated to allow for a much greater good. And the development of the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District is certainly one of those instances.

No one likes for the atmosphere they have come to love around their home to take a drastic turn. There’s no doubt the innovation district will disturb the serenity and pastoral farm fields that drew current residents to the area.

But the Lebanon City Council was right this week to annex 5,225 acres of land for the innovation district, another milestone toward the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s planned 11,000-acre, high-innovation park in Boone County.

It’s hard to argue against the vision for the park and the economic opportunity it will bring.

Eli Lilly and Co. already has committed to investing $2.1 billion to build two manufacturing facilities in the park, creating 500 high-paying jobs.

That’s expected to be just the start of a Boone County economic juggernaut that could ripple throughout the rest of the state. Economic development leaders see the innovation district becoming much like North Carolina’s Research Triangle, building synergy off of the site’s location along Interstate 65 between Purdue University and emerging separate identities of Purdue University and Indiana University in Indianapolis on the IUPUI campus just west of downtown.

The vision is that the innovation district will become a hub for the next generation of high-paying jobs in technology and science.

As much as we support the IEDC’s efforts, we also relate to Boone County residents’ push for the state to be more transparent about its intentions and to exercise caution when settling on a way to bring an adequate water supply to the site.

The initial secrecy surrounding the IEDC’s efforts to amass thousands of acres for the project only served to sow seeds of distrust among area residents, further solidifying opposition among them.

Going forward, our hope is that state and local Boone County officials will be much more forthcoming about what approaches they might take to meet the innovation district’s water demands and what precautions they are taking to make sure the final choice doesn’t disrupt water supplies elsewhere.

Currently, state officials are exploring the feasibility of transporting up to 100 million gallons of water a day through a 35-mile pipeline from the Wabash aquifer in Lafayette.

Boone County residents deserve to be fully informed about the innovation district’s development from here on out. Indiana government leaders deserve the opportunity to boost the state’s economic future. And Hoosiers deserve the high-paying jobs the state’s work almost certainly will bring.

Let the project roll on.

Brighter tomorrows for not-for-profits

Area not-for-profits also deserve a brighter economic future, and you can help make that happen by browsing their wish lists on page 16A.

Every year, IBJ invites charities to share their greatest needs. We hope you’ll take the time to see what needs you might be able to fill.•

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