Columbus Container to expand near outlet mall

A local manufacturer is positioning itself for a substantial expansion that may bring several new jobs to northern Bartholomew County.

After purchasing 38 acres north of the Edinburgh Premium Outlets, Columbus Container, Inc. has received initial approval to rezone the land from a commercial shopping to an industrial district.

The cardboard product manufacturer expects to eventually construct a facility capable of providing substantial quantities of corrugated supplies for a few larger corporations, company spokeswoman Tammy Burton said.

While no definitive plans have been drawn up at this time, Burton did give the commission what she described an estimate that the project was a $30 million investment.

“It will certainly increase employment,” said Burton, daughter of Columbus Container founder and chief executive officer Bob Haddad Sr. “This will have a substantial economic development impact.”

While Thursday’s vote to rezone the property by the Edinburgh/Bartholomew/Columbus Joint District Plan Commission was unanimous, it’s not a done deal yet.

A joint District Council made up mostly of elected officials must either affirm or deny the commission’s recommendation at a yet-unscheduled meeting, according to city-county planning director Jeff Bergman.

The 41-year-old family-owned company currently employs 260 workers in Bartholomew County, as well as operates facilities in four other Indiana communities, Burton said.

The acquired property is just south of the company’s 20-year-old warehouse that was expanded just two years after it was built.

“We did speak about the possibility of merging the current and future buildings at some point,” Burton said. “But we don’t have any solid plans.”

Despite that fact, as well as no timelines, several concerns expressed by commission members were addressed during Thursday’s meeting.

For example, when Burton was asked whether parcels might be sold to other manufacturers after rezoning was approved, Burton replied “we don’t have any plans to subdivide it up at all.”

If the property were subdivided and sold, the company acquiring the land would still have to come before the commission for a public hearing, Bergman said.

There also were initial concerns expressed after Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. asked that storm water monitoring wells be installed on the property to ensure water quality.

However, that request was prompted by recent regulatory changes that apply to all property developments in that area, utility superintendent Don Smith said.

While Columbus Container has fueling tanks on their current warehouse property near Edinburgh, the company has no plans to install additional underground tanks, according to surveyor E.R. Gray.

In order to preserve the aesthetics, Columbus Container has agreed to install trees and shrubs as a buffer between the industrial and commercial shopping areas, Gray said.

At the request of motel developer Nicholas Sprague, the manufacturer has also agreed to add berms, along with more elaborate trees and shrubs, between the manufacturing facility and nearby Holiday Inn Express, owned by Janeen Sprague.

After commission members asked whether additional truck traffic might cause problems, especially along Presidential Way, Gray replied that “if this was all commercial, I think it would have far more of a traffic impact than what this proposal would provide.”

In addition, the company contends it might be more practical and cost efficient to move its product by rail, rather than truck, Burton said.

Mark Pratt of Breeden Commercial Developers addressed concerns that the rezoning might impede further retail growth in the Edinburgh Premium Outlets area.

“There is commercial land available in the area, and there’s a likelihood more will become available in the coming years,” Pratt said. “But there is a dire need for industrial land for growth and expansion.”

The news was welcomed by Bartholomew County commissioner Carl Lienhoop, who said the county has been waiting patiently for more than 15 years for industrial development of the Meadow Lawn Farms area, located north of the outlet mall.

“It hasn’t happened,” said Lienhoop, who is also a member of the joint commission. “Well, today is Columbus Container’s chance.”

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.