Make your home page

VALPARAISO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Officials in Valparaiso have unveiled plans for a $37 million mixed-use development in the city’s downtown. The city says The Linc will be comprised of three, four-story buildings that will include a total of 121 apartments, as well as ground floor retail and restaurant space, in addition to a 300-space parking structure. “These new additions take the city’s downtown plans to the next level and will be as positive and transformative as the introduction of our downtown park, Central Park Plaza, was a decade ago,” said Mayor Matt Murphy.

Patrick Lyp, attorney for the city’s redevelopment commission, tells Inside INdiana Business the project is a “logical, natural progression” for downtown Valpo.

“The development you have seen in downtown Valparaiso over the last 20-plus years…we’re kind of looking back at all of the milestones we’ve hit going back to the early 2000s,” Lyp said. “The city secured downtown liquor licenses. The city invested in facade improvement grants. The city had two transformative projects in our downtown amphitheater and Urschel Pavillion, and on the residential side, we’ve had various smaller developments over time.”

The property on which the development will be built was acquired by Carmel-based real estate investment and development company Hageman. Lyp says the city was impressed with the firm’s previous work in central Indiana.

“We were looking for the right developer to bring this level of density and, as you can imagine, doing an eight or 10-unit development has a certain skillset, but bringing a larger development into a denser area needs a special skillset,” he said. “Seeing all the projects that Hagemen have done in central Indiana, when they came to us and gave us some concepts, it was a perfect fit.”

The housing and retail development is expected to cost about $19.5 million, with the remainder covering the construction of the new Lincoln Highway Garage. The city says the garage will support the new housing, as well as surrounding businesses.

Tom Dickey, managing director of real estate for Hageman, says he has seen first hand how a project like The Linc can benefit a community.

“I think the first thing really about economic development when we talk to towns and cities about redeveloping their downtowns is talent attraction,” said Dickey. “It’s attracting that next generation of worker. That worker comes along with spending power at restaurants and so forth, but really it’s talent for current employers to leverage.”

The property to be used for The Linc currently houses the Round the Clock restaurant. The owners of the restaurant have agreed to move the restaurant to a new location, though a specific site has not yet been chosen.

The Indiana Economic Development Commission has awarded $5.6 million in redevelopment tax credits for the project, in addition to tax increment financing assistance being provided by the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2022 with occupancy slated to begin in late 2023.

WESTVILLE, HAMMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A new economic impact study commissioned by Purdue University Northwest reveals the school adds nearly $750 million in total income annually in the region and supports more than 10,000 direct jobs. The study also shows one out of every 36 jobs in northwest Indiana is connected to a PNW degree. The institution, which consists of campuses in Westville and Hammond, says the study examined the economic impact of the school’s spending on major industries in the region.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon said there is a definite return on the education investment.

“We hear so many negative things about the cost of going to college, to getting a degree at a university. This study showed that the cost benefit ratio is four times greater than the initial cost of the degree and shows for 14.9% return on investment,” said Keon.

The study, based on data from the 2019-2020 academic year, is based on job creation, salaries, and increased business productivity, among other factors

PNW says the impact accounts for two percent of gross regional product, including the accomplishments of students and alumni, research conducted, and start-ups launched as a result of PNW’s educational and engagement activities.

“Every dollar spent by students on a PNW education increases their lifetime earnings fourfold,” said Keon. “From a taxpayer perspective, every $1 invested at PNW returns $1.70 to the local economy, for a total value of $89.7 million in future tax revenue and government savings.”

Keon says the study also found the average bachelor’s degree graduate from PNW will see an increase in earnings of $22,200 each year compared to someone with a high school diploma.

“The results of this study further confirm PNW’s role as a premier metropolitan university, transforming students’ lives and our region at the most significant rate among all local public universities,” said Keon.

The study was conducted by Emsi Burning Glass, a labor market analytics firm based in Idaho. It conducted a similar study for Ivy Tech Community College in which the results were released in September.

Click here to view the economic study.

PORTAGE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — As the wind energy industry continues to grow in the Midwest, a terminal operator at the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor is seeing an increase in the number of massive wind turbine blades at its Lake Michigan dock.

Most of the blades range from 110-125 feet in length and weigh anywhere from 11,000 to 25,000 pounds each. Montreal-based Federal Marine Terminal Inc. is one of two stevedores serving the port, a contract company that loads and unloads ships for other customers.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, FMT Vice President of Operations Chris Dugas called the cargo “pretty cool,” but the fiberglass blades are fragile.

“They’re not as nearly as resilient. It’s a big deal. They’re very expensive pieces of cargo,” said Dugas. “Just the pure size of handling them and how much space they take up on a ship makes it a challenge.”

According to FMT, the company has handled 219 blades on nine ships. Another three more ships with blades are expected this year.  “We’ve also received 3 other ships with other when wind components,” said FMT Terminal Manager Justin West.

FMT leases 25 acres of outdoors storage from the Ports of Indiana, much of it is used for the wind blades. They sit in a staging area, waiting for specialized trucks and escorted convoys to move the blades to wind farms under development throughout the Midwest.

“The trucks to get them out of the port, it’s a pretty impressive operation and a lot of partners go into making it a success,” said Dugas.

FMT says wind turbine shipments account for about eight percent of its business, vastly overshadowed by its steel-related cargoes which account for 80% of its business.

“We kind of live and die by steel here. Like this year, steel prices are high, there’s a lot of demand, but supply is not there. It’s very, very key piece of cargo,” said Dugas, who adds that more than 50% of the cargo FMT onloads remains in the Burns Harbor facility for other tenants.

“That’s very rare. Most facilities export, import, hits the ground, and it’s going somewhere else,” said Dugas. “I think just the sheer volume of cargo that comes in here, the mix of cargo, if you look around, it’s an impressive number.”

Another impressive number is total tonnage. Through July, FMT has handled 381,033 metric tons of cargo. That number nearly matches the 381,735 MT for all of 2020. Most of the cargo is steel, or steel-related products.

The port has about 30 businesses in the 600-acre site and about half are involved in the steelmaking and processing industries.

Ryan McCoy, who is director of the Ports of Indiana-Burns Harbor facility, says as valuable as the northwest Indiana steel industry is for port operations, he says it is also important to serve a broad spectrum of industries.

“We see the ups and downs of the steel industry has had in the last 30, 40, 50, 60 years. If we’re solely focused on steel we fail as a port, we need to be diversified,” said McCoy. “We need to attract other tenants, other customers outside of steel.”

McCoy says that is why terminal operators, like FMT, and project cargo, like turbine blades, are necessary to the success of the port.

“That’s why this project cargo is so important. That’s why the bulk cargo is so important. That’s why maintaining such a footprint in agriculture is so important for us to,” said McCoy. “If we can do all of those well, we win. That’s when we become the best port.”

PORTAGE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Michigan-based Emagine Entertainment Inc. will Friday open its first movie theater in Indiana.

The company, which operates more than two dozen theaters across the Midwest, says Emagine Portage will begin showings while renovations continue throughout the summer.

Emagine says it assumed the lease of the former GQT Portage 16, though it is not disclosing financial terms of the lease or the cost of renovations. The theater includes 16 traditional auditoriums and two EMAX auditoriums with floor-to-ceiling screens.

Once renovations are complete, Emagine says the theater will include a full-service bar, lounge area and enhanced concessions, as well as heated reclining chairs and front row seating “cuddle chairs.” It will also feature a balcony in the largest EMAX auditorium.

“Emagine Theatres have been loved by their movie goers, so we are thrilled for the residents of Portage that we are able to open the Emagine Portage location,” Paul Glantz, chairman of Emagine Entertainment, said in a news release. “We are excited to bring the Emagine experience to this wonderful community.”

The theater will officially open to the public at 10 a.m.

PORTAGE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Ports of Indiana has hired two new leaders for the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor operations, including a new port director. The statewide port authority says it has hired Ryan McCoy as director, succeeding Ian Hirt, who announced in January he was stepping down to re-enter the private sector.

The organization has also hired Tom Fifer for the newly created position of director of planning and project delivery.

McCoy most recently served as the multi-facility manager for a grain elevator located at the Burns Harbor port. The elevator is owned by Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. He begins his new job April 26.

Fifer most recently worked for Indianapolis-based Envigo, a clinical laboratory and research business, where he served as global director of engineering and maintenance. He also served in the U.S. Air Force for more than two decades, where he was a military hospital clinical engineer.

The authority says Fifer is responsible for leading the project planning at all three port locations, which includes Burns Harbor and two ports along the Ohio River.

“Both gentlemen offer incredible experience and attributes that will strengthen the team and contribute to the success of the ports,” said Ports of Indiana Chief Operating Officer Andrea Hermer. “Ryan’s extensive and diverse background of experiences, coupled with his knowledge with the port, tenants and the community, perfectly position the Burns Harbor port for continued growth and new opportunities. Likewise, Tom’s breadth of experience and understanding of the project planning and delivery process, and efficiencies gained through upfront planning and improvements to the process, are well-suited for this new, yet necessary, role.”

Meanwhile, the port authority has also launched a search for a new port director for Ports of Indiana-Mount Vernon. Last week, current director Phil Wilzbacher announced his retirement after a 19-year-career with the organization.

VALPARAISO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Valparaiso-based aviation consulting firm and airplane repossession specialist Sage-Popovich Inc. has purchased Togs Aircraft, LLC, a Michigan-based airplane parts and repair facility. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SPI specializes in the recovery of aviation-related equipment. Flight operations run out of Gary/Chicago International Airport.

TOGS’s maintenance capabilities include turboprops, helicopters, corporate jets, and regional airline equipment. It previously conducted contract work for SPI, such as pre-purchase inspections and maintenance of repossessed aircraft.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2021.

SPI also announced a change in leadership, naming Petar Todorovic president. Todorovic previously served as vice president of operations.

With Todorovic’s promotion, SPI Owner Nick Popovich will become chairman and focus his attention on the philanthropic efforts of the Popovich Family Trust.

BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) has co-introduced bipartisan legislation to give the United States Coast Guard more tools in its ice-breaking mission to keep the Great Lakes open to commercial shippers during the winter months.

The Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act would codify into law the Coast Guard’s job to break ice on the five lakes to support the commerce created by the waterways.

The lawmaker says increasing icebreaking capacity will help the many businesses and workers that rely on the maritime industry to transport their goods to market and grow the regional economy.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Sen. Young said the Great Lakes are vital to the U.S. economy regardless of the season.

“Roughly 28% of our nation’s annual economic output comes from the Great Lakes region, and the pandemic has only emphasized the area’s importance to our nation’s economy,” said Young. “In recent years, commerce on the Great Lakes has suffered due to a lack of icebreaking during cold weather months.”

A consortium of maritime associations and authorities, including the Ports of Indiana, say the legislation is necessary.

“It comes at a critical time as ports continue to move cargo vital to the economic recovery,” said Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association. “Now, more than ever, predictable and dependable icebreaking is needed to ensure cargo can continue to move efficiently.”

Young introduced the legislation along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Gary Peters (D-MI).

“Inadequate icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes is costing us thousands of American jobs and millions in business revenue. We must boost our icebreaking capacity in the Great Lakes to keep our maritime commerce moving,” said Baldwin.

Lake Michigan has some 1,638 miles of shoreline, but only 45 miles lie in Indiana. The Hoosier State has the shortest stretch of the Great Lakes states. However, the coastline is heavily involved in the production of steel and the shipment of grain.

“It’s densely populated; our Lake Michigan shoreline with steel mills, with heavy industry,” said Young. “This is a unique place in the world where we’ve been able to balance over the years…heavy industry with…environmental preservation.”

In 2018, the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership commissioned an economic analysis which shows Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping supports nearly 240,000 jobs and $35 billion in overall economic activity. There is a mixture of more than 100 public, private and public/private ports.

Breaking it down by state, the waterway supports 67,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in total personal income and local consumption expenditures in Indiana alone.

“Ports of Indiana endorses the Great Lakes Winter Commerce Act and echoes the American Great Lakes Ports Association and Lake Carriers Association supportive comments on this timely and imperative legislation intended to keep commerce flowing,” said Ports of Indiana Chief Executive Officer Vanta Coda. “We are grateful to the senators for working to secure icebreaking resources needed to support our maritime industry.”

The Ports of Indiana says the St. Lawrence Seaway is scheduled to reopen to ships in two weeks. The first ship pulling into the Port of Indiana- Burns Harbor should arrive in early April.

VALPARAISO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — St. Mary Medical Center is expanding the Valparaiso Health Center by adding a third floor to accommodate the hospital’s growing needs. Chief Executive Officer Janice Ryba says the addition will house physical therapy, medical oncology and gastroenterology service lines.

Ryba says the additional space, which will encompass more than 20,000 square feet, brings more services to one location closer to home for patients.

“Therapy services will be expanding their space due to increasing demand. A medical oncology group will be housed at the center to see patients,” said Ryba. “We also will be enhancing and expanding space to accommodate additional physician offices.”

Ryba says the addition is expected to be complete by June 2021. 

VALPARAISO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Chicago-based Ekos Window + Wall says it plans to break ground this spring in northwest Indiana on a 120,000-square-foot plant that will create 110 new manufacturing jobs. The company says the $11 million investment in Valparaiso will boost production of glass curtain wall products used in high rise buildings.

The building enclosure manufacturer says it conducted an expansive search throughout the Midwest to find the right location.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ekos President Rodrigo d’Escoto explained why he thinks the Hoosier state is the right fit.

“Very efficient. Moves quickly. They execute. They’re skinny on words and long on execution,” said d’Escoto. “They have good incentives to help you because it’s a huge investment for us and help us make that move.”

The company manufactures a variety of exterior wall enclosures, some as long as 24 feet tall. Ekos says it is focusing on products that offer energy efficiency.

“Buildings that don’t hemorrhage energy are better for all of us,” said d’Escoto. “The science and the chemistry behind the building and closure, and especially with sustainability has never been more important.”

Despite the economic challenges associated with the pandemic, the company decided to remain aggressive in its expansion.

“There’s risk, right, to see past the challenges of the last 12 months,” said d’Escoto. “But we decided we’re going to double down on our business. We’re going to go after it.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Ekos Window + Wall up to $1.25 million in conditional tax credits and up to $200,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans, among other conditional tax credits.

The company says the city offered favorable pricing on the land for development.

“We’re happy to welcome Ekos Window + Wall to Valparaiso,” said Valparaiso Mayor Matt Murphy. “We’re so pleased to share Valparaiso’s strengths in workforce, services and quality of life, giving companies like Ekos and other former neighbors the confidence to choose our community.”

In addition to state incentives, the company has forged a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College to help upskill workers for the manufacturer. The company says the patent-pending technology will require CNC operators, welders and fabricators.

“There’s been a concerted effort to build a program, a certification program for feeding workers right from Ivy Tech right into our facility,” said Ekos Vice President Ed Kruschka. “Not only is there going to be a curriculum at Ivy Tech that we’re working on, but we actually have a classroom and a mockup facility so they can come and do hands-on training within our facility.”

The company intends to break ground in April and to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2021.

Ekos President Rodrigo d’Escoto explained why the Hoosier State is the right fit.

VALPARAISO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The board of directors for the Center of Workforce Innovations in Valparaiso has selected Lisa Daugherty as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer. Daugherty succeeds Linda Woloshansky, who announced her retirement after 20 years leading the nonprofit.

Daugherty currently serves as president and CEO of the Lake Area United Way. She will begin her new role March 1.

“I believe I can speak for the entire board in saying that we believe Lisa will bring the leadership, collaboration, creativity, and passion that will assure future generations are prepared to meet the workforce needs of the region,” said CWI Board Chair Glen Todd.

Todd says the search for Woloshansky’s successor was conducted by Organizational Development Studios, who pored over 75 applicants from across the country.