Intrigue has hit Boone County, where rumors about a mysterious company trying to buy large swaths of property became so persistent over the last few months, the county commissioners hosted a meeting to take questions from the community about it.
The problem was, they just didn’t have any real answers.
In the void, residents started speculating that maybe a private airport—or even one dedicated to FedEx—would be locating there. Or that China was trying to buy up the land. Or that Amazon planned to open a drone-delivery center.
Turns out, it’s the Indiana Economic Development Corp. on the hunt for land. And the agency, part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration, said it’s not for any of the above purposes.
Instead, the IEDC is exploring a development that could take advantage of Boone County’s position between Purdue University and the universities, researchers and corporate headquarters that are in Indianapolis.
Local officials say the state’s goal is to amass some 4,000 to 7,000 acres that could be used to attract a manufacturer of batteries, microchips or other high-tech components. In fact, IEDC officials said specifically that Boone County is “attractive to high-tech companies in future-focused industries.”
It’s hard to tell how far along these land deals might be. Sources have told IBJ there are binding agreements to buy. The IEDC said it’s putting itself in a position to buy land “once we and local leaders identify specific opportunities for development.”
Regardless, we think the Holcomb administration is moving in the right direction.
Recent deals for high-tech manufacturers in other states have come together quickly. The next opportunity for Indiana to land a megadeal might not allow time to cobble together land from scratch. So, acquiring land in advance or securing the option to buy it will likely be key to being competitive with other states.
We also think Boone County is incredibly well situated for the kind of investment that could bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the region. Just a glimpse up the road at the Purdue Research Park—where Rolls-Royce North America and Saab are investing millions, and researchers are launching dozens of startups—gives a hint as to why a high-tech manufacturer might choose the area.
We know there are residents and landowners in the county who disagree. A group called People for Boone County Farmland has posted a petition to oppose any development. “We do not want our rich, productive land to be turned into a concrete technology/industrial park, nor do we want our way of life to be upended by urban sprawl,” it reads.
We empathize—but we think that’s shortsighted. To oppose development overall is foolhardy. To grow, Indiana and Boone County must be prepared for future opportunities.
We would encourage state and local officials to be as open as possible with residents about what they have in mind. It might ease some fear and generate some excitement. And that would be a great step forward.•
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