State seeks land in Boone County for potentially mammoth tech park

The state’s job-creation agency has identified Boone County as a key location for future growth and is exploring land purchase options for what local officials say could be a 4,000- to 7,000-acre innovation park.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. told IBJ in a statement that it “does not have any confirmed development details in terms of size, investment or specific businesses planning to invest” in the county. 

But the agency—part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration—said the county’s location between Purdue University and Indianapolis along Interstate 65 makes “it attractive to high-tech companies in future-focused industries.”

The IEDC acknowledged that it is working via IIP LLC—an entity registered with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office in September—to be in a “position to purchase land once we and local leaders identify specific opportunities for development that will improve the economy and quality of life for Boone County residents.”

A source who has seen some of IIP’s written offers to buy land in the area said the company has prepared full purchase agreements and that the offers he’s seen are legally binding. 

Meanwhile, a group calling itself People for Boone County Farmland has posted a petition on Change.org that tells Brad Chambers, the state’s commerce secretary and head of the IEDC, that there are better places in Indiana for a high-tech 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,” reads the online petition, which has been “signed” by nearly 1,300 people.

The group identified an area northwest of Lebanon—north of State Road 32 and south of West Hazelrigg Road—as the land the state is targeting, although state officials have not been that specific. The Big 4 Trail runs through that area. 

This farm field, just south of Hazelrigg on County Road North 500 West, is in the area that a group called People for Boone County Farmland says is the state’s target for land purchases. (IBJ photo/Daniel Bradley)

A 4,000- to 7,000-acre parcel would be considerably larger than Purdue University’s campus, which comprises 2,500 acres in West Lafayette.

Local officials and others say the long-term goal is to create a sort of research district—not unlike the North Carolina Research Triangle—that would connect a Boone County tech park with Purdue and schools, researchers and other assets in Indianapolis. 

The IEDC’s executive vice president, David Rosenberg, specifically mentioned the Research Triangle in a statement to IBJ: “These types of developments, similar to what’s seen in other states, i.e. Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, take years of planning.”

Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry told IBJ that the state hopes to attract manufacturers of semiconductors, microprocessors and battery technology to the site.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity that has the potential to provide technology careers for people today and their kids and their grandkids going forward,” Gentry said. “It’s going to be targeting products that we all use on a daily basis.”

Gentry said he heard rumors about a development prior to Thanksgiving, but he did not learn anything official until this month when he met with Chambers and Holcomb, who both emphasized the importance of Boone County’s location.

“I think they can see that serving as a pretty easy talent pipeline for them, as well as our proximity to the rest of central Indiana,” Gentry said.

Gentry said state officials have not decided whether they would designate the site an Innovation Development District. The Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 361—set to take effect July 1—that will let the IEDC create sites for large-scale developments. That bill also provides the IEDC with $300 million in cash incentives, which could include making land purchases.

The IEDC said the Boone County site “could qualify for an Innovation Development District, but that is simply one of many possible tools the IEDC could use to advance its development.”

Gentry said state officials seem to be trying to act quickly to ensure they are ready for the next big deal that comes along. “I think the state has recognized that they have missed out on a few deals recently, especially the Intel deal,” Gentry said.

In January, Intel announced it would spend as much as $20 billion to create the world’s largest semiconductor assembly facility, part of a sprawling, 1,000-acre advanced-manufacturing campus just outside of Columbus, Ohio.

IEDC officials have declined to say whether Indiana was in the hunt for that project.

Last week, the Boone County commissioners held a town hall-style meeting at Western Boone Junior/Senior High School to discuss the possible business development.

Many residents expressed concerns about the possible business development citing the loss of community, farmland and way of life.

Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said developers have approached residents seeking to buy their land. Boone County commissioners said the IEDC didn’t contact them about a possible development until about two weeks ago.

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27 thoughts on “State seeks land in Boone County for potentially mammoth tech park

  1. So AFTER the battery factories and chip factory and Lilly facilities were announced in other states, we think the problem is “lack of development sites”?

    1. There is a lack of development sites for projects like this. The types of companies who are seeking these sites and the state is trying to secure, want to see the sites turn key ready and waiting for them. They don’t want to wait on the due diligence purchase process or to jump through multiple layers of approvals. Having sites like this ready will take the timeframe from years to a few months. The quicker you can get them under roof and operating, the better the companies like it and are more likely to choose Indiana. We have plenty of distribution here- we need more manufacturing.

    2. I don’t believe that Indiana failed to land those recent factory commitments because we lack development sites.

      There was never any trouble assembling giant sites and building roads for GM, Subaru, Toyota, or Honda in the past.

  2. As a Lebanon resident, GREAT. The “small town” vibe is total. Poor is poor – this area needs development and it’s going to happen no matter what – having a good plan will make this better for all parties.

    1. Under the new federal infrastructure plan, Indiana plans on using a portion of its share of funding to make I-65 three lanes between Gary at the I-94 toll road and Jeffersonville at the Ohio River. At the same time it also intends to make all of I-70 between Ohio and Illinois three lanes as well.

    1. Murray, what is your idea of “forward thinking”? Based on your numerous prior posts, I think we knew you answer.

    2. I think “anti-progress” sums it up, be it politically or socially or environmentally or economically or judicially. Even middle-of-the-road is more than you can handle.

    3. It’s impressive how little you say while using, typically, so many words. Seems you rarely ever reply addressing the initial comment at hand.

    4. You have to build in a fashion that is appealing to the companies that would pay thousands of workers millions in salaries. Sorry, Murray, there isn’t 4,000-7,000 acres of land inside Marion County to build this.

  3. The assembly, entitlement process, extension of utilities and infrastructure development can take years. When Tech innovators are looking to expand the need is immediate and Indiana needs shovel ready land inventory available to compete on a national and global level. Indiana is taking the needed action to be prepared for the future.

  4. We already have 16Tech in the works, which aims to achieve the same goals, and we struggle with labor market retention because we are putting these jobs so far away from the major population centers with no public transportation access. The last thing we need is to continue the outward sprawl of jobs.

    1. The idea is to build the Indiana equivalent of Research Triangle Park in Indiana. Located centrally between Indianapolis, Purdue, and Rose-Hulman makes sense to me …not sure if it will work given how few of our students actually go on to those schools or want to stay here, but at least it’s an effort …. beats doubling down on more distribution centers.

    2. A.T. – 16 Tech is not intended to be a manufacturing site, but rather a place where medical sciences and technology can innovate in a “run free and collaborate” environment. Think incubator, not manufacturing.

    3. 16Tech is NOTHING like what is proposed here. And this group that wants to preserve farmland … these are the same people who will complain about the lack of semiconductors because there’s no place in the U.S. to manufacture them. If a developer came to them with a big check for their land, would they take?

    1. If not for the state legislature, we could have light rail running from downtown up Michigan Road with stops inside Indianapolis up to 86th Street then heading to I-65 via I-865 with stops on the west side of Zionsville, Lebanon, Lafayette, and West Lafayette. Plenty of land for park-and-ride lots near the stops.

    2. Yeah, but we can’t do that. So, how about a nice BRT that would not only bring workers up to Boone County (coupled with a shuttle system to get to all the big employers up there), but also provide a time-competitive bus trip to downtown for commuters, entertainment, etc?

  5. NOTICE – **This is not Richard S. commenting on this article** Boone County needs this development in order to thrive and not become a run-down mid-size farming community. I was raised in a farming community in Illinois that was thriving and a great place to live and raise a family. To see it today, it is a ghost town without a grocery store or the necessary commodities needed without having to go to the closest bigger city to grocery shop, go out to eat, clothes shop, entertainment, etc. If that is what you want Lebanon to become, keep pushing new opportunities/developments out of the area and you’ll get exactly that. Then we will hear nothing but complaining because we don’t have any local resources for every-day necessities or entertainment. I read a lot of complaining about not having nice restaurants to eat at and how we can’t keep stores we had in the community in business. In order to have these things, development has to happen; companies have to “want” to come to Boone County to do business. Think about what the community needs are and what it will be like in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years from now and what our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will need in order to survive and make a living. Stop thinking of only yourselves and think of the community’s future and the future of our families. That is what matters. Bring on the new development and opportunities! We ALL will benefit from it. ~ MM

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