State panel OKs nearly $300M in IEDC incentives, LEAP enhancements

By Peter Blanchard | Indianapolis Business Journal

For The Republic

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. received the green light Tuesday to offer $180 million in incentives for two advanced manufacturing projects valued at $7.2 billion, the details of which remain undisclosed.

The State Budget Committee, which consists of four lawmakers and the state budget director, voted unanimously to authorize the spending. But Democrats on the committee expressed deep reservations about the agency’s requests, which included an additional $97 million for land acquisition and site improvements for the LEAP Innovation and Research District in Boone County.

“A lack of transparency and communication with us has really created a cloud that made us question some of these deals,” said Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis.

The money will come from an IEDC $500 million deal-closing fund that was approved by state lawmakers in this year’s budget, but the IEDC needed the State Budget Committee’s blessing to move forward with the transactions.

The IEDC plans to offer $100 million in performance-based incentive grants for a $4.1 billion advanced manufacturing facility that is expected to result in 2,700 jobs. The undisclosed company is considering multiple locations across the state for its project, which was given the code name “Nora,” though the LEAP District is not one of them, IEDC Senior Vice President Mark Wasky told the committee.

The committee also approved the agency’s ask for $80 million in incentives for a tech company that plans to invest $3.1 billion into a facility to manufacture advanced electrical components, a project that is expected to create 800 new jobs, Wasky said.

The code name for that development is Project Mars, he said.

Indiana set a new record this year for committed capital investments made by companies doing business here, according to the IEDC. The agency said it has secured $28.7 billion in new capital expenditures in 2023, a 29% increase over the $22.2 billion from the previous year.

LEAP requests approved

The committee also approved the agency’s request to spend $71 million to acquire roughly 750 acres of land that is already under option in Boone County for the LEAP District to support an estimated $800 million investment in the first phase of a company’s multibillion-dollar information technology center project.

The land is located in the northern end of the LEAP District, Wasky said.

The IEDC has spent nearly $300 million on land acquisitions for the LEAP District in Boone County, paying on average between $75,000 to $80,000 per acre for mostly farmland, according to sales disclosure forms.

The average price of farmland in Indiana is around $13,000 an acre, according to Purdue University.

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, questioned whether the IEDC would be able to sell the land for a similar price it was purchased for.

“You’re overpaying for the ground. Do you think manufacturers will want to overpay for the same ground?” Delaney asked.

“We continue to work through the specifics of the sale price and believe that we’ll be able to satisfy the tenets of the fund and get a return on our investment,” Wasky replied, referring to the IEDC’s site strategies fund.

The committee also agreed to release $26 million in funds to support ongoing infrastructure investments, including roadway improvements, fiber extension and other utility needs, for the LEAP District.