Council considers deal with King’s Hawaiian, ‘Rainy Day’ funds may fund infrastructure

Photo provided An artist’s rendition of a proposed food and beverage facility proposed to be located in Edinburgh near I-65.

Bartholomew County officials will consider late this month whether to spend $2.8 million of reserve funds on infrastructure improvements in the Taylorsville area in preparation for a new food manufacturing facility locating there.

That will be the sole focus of a special meeting of the Bartholomew County Council at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30 in the council’s chambers at 440 Third St.

County officials say the most urgent reason for infrastructure improvement and expansion at this time is to prepare for the needs of King’s Hawaiian. Last September, the California-based company announced its intention to invest $180 million in a new German Township food manufacturing facility.

The company plans to create 147 new jobs with an average wage of $29.94 per hour, Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. president Jason Hester said.

But Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said there are some real hurdles to convincing the corporation to make a final commitment.

King’s Hawaiian needs to be assured there will be adequate water quality and pressure, a sewage system and upgraded or extended roads to suit their needs, Hester said.

There has been some progress in that regard. The county and King’s Hawaiian have struck a tentative deal, according to Bartholomew County Council President Jorge Morales. If the county agrees to finance increasing the water pressure through Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. and fund the off-site installation of a sewage system, the company will give back the tax abatement issued in September on machinery and equipment, Morales said.

The money from the county reserves would also be spent on hiring a yet-undetermined firm to install a sewage system in the vicinity. While new or improved roads would also be included in the infrastructure improvement, those projects will likely be funded in a more conventional way, Morales said.

When spread out over the 10-year abatement period, the company’s concession translates into an annual average of $394,000 being placed back in the public coffers. However, King’s Hawaiian will keep its phase-in of real estate property taxes for up to a $90 million investment, Morales said.

That investment will purchase 88 acres off County Road 200W, near the Indiana Premium Outlets. It will also finance the construction of a 368,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with an attached 78,000-square-foot cold storage building, as well as a separate 86,000-square-foot beverage plant, according to planning department documents.

Late last summer, Bartholomew County Commissioners president Tony London disagreed with those who felt the county is giving too much for one company.

“(Off-site infrastructure development) is not something that King’s Hawaiian should be responsible for,” London said.

Morales, a Cummins, Inc. retiree, looks at the matter from another perspective. If Cummins had requested local government to provide off-site infrastructure in exchange for an plant expansion creating 147 jobs, it’s likely nobody would voice any objections, he said.

The installation of infrastructure is likely to stimulate all types of economic development in that area of German Township, Kleinhenz said.

For example, he cited the acreage north of Bear Lane and Hubler Drive that was recently rezoned for light industrial use, he said.

“That land will become so much more valuable once King’s Hawaiian goes into the land just north of the rezoned property,” Kleinhenz said.

On the other side of U.S. 31 is the 231-acre Meadow Lawn Farm, which has been zoned for industrial development since 2004.

While a number of companies considered Meadow Lawn, many chose other locations that offered shovel-ready sites. In Indiana, shovel ready is a state-designation that means there’s adequate preparation of a commercial or industrial site to start construction. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs website lists available infrastructure as a key part of being shovel-ready.

Increasing water pressure and quality for Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. would not just benefit current and future companies in the Taylorsville area. It would also benefit 5,200 homes, businesses and schools served by the utility, Morales said.

One of those customers is county council member Leah Beyer, who says low water pressure is a concern at her residence. A number of recent boil water advisories has raised her concerns about water quality, she said.

Low water pressure has also been a concern for volunteer firefighters who get their water from Eastern Bartholomew, so the investment should assist them in bringing fires under control, Morales said.

When there’s more people earning good wages, more tax revenue is obtained to fund schools, businesses, schools, libraries, road improvements and first responders, the council president added.

Good paying jobs would also help several Bartholomew County businesses, especially those in the Edinburgh/Taylorsville area, Morales said.