Investors, business leaders, and officials from across Lake County gathered at Briar Ridge Country Club for the Lake County Economic Alliance (LCEA) Networking & Economic Update Night on Wednesday. Guests discussed and celebrated all the recent developments around Lake County and the LCEA unveiled a massive new project for East Chicago.
Over the last five years, LCEA has played a critical role in fostering the growth of Northwest Indiana’s economy. From promoting new start-ups, helping the expansion of existing businesses, and even inviting new locations for national brands, LCEA’s services help provide stability and development across the county.
Karen Lauerman, president and CEO at LCEA, revealed the evening’s biggest piece of news: an investor is looking to transform 400 acres in East Chicago into a 1-million-square-foot building, with the potential for more than $100 million in investment and 1,000 new jobs. There is also potential for another two buildings on the site, each offering similar investment and job opportunities. Scott Aschoff, co-owner of East Chicago Gateway Partners, is leading the project which is located at the site of the former DuPont/Chemours plant.
“It’ll cost about $26 million to fix the land from an environmental perspective,” Aschoff said. “In return, we’ll put up 3 million square feet of warehouse over the next several years. We’ve already lined up our builders, the city’s been extremely cooperative in helping us move forward.”
Aschoff is working with Milton Reed, principal at Global Consulting Solutions in East Chicago, and the LCEA to keep the community involved in every aspect of the plan.
“This project is almost a redefining of true environmental justice,” Reed said. “There are now multiple silos of opportunity for the community to be involved every step of the way.”
First Midwest Bank sponsored the evening and their Senior Vice President, Paul Beneturski, addressed the crowd as one of the LCEA’s newest board members.
“Let’s face it, Northwest Indiana is exploding,” he said. “Indiana is very accepting, with open arms, and responds very quickly. Our work starts from the very beginning. We’ll go out and say if you want to start something in Lake County, talk to us. We can help you across the board, which makes it easy to come to Lake County and provide a seamless transition for a business in another state, or even a startup,” Beneturski said.
Lauerman gave updates on projects that have already invested millions into the Region and will provide hundreds of jobs. Griffith for example, is receiving a roughly $10 million investment and 45 new jobs in the form of a new Restaurant Depot, a big-box wholesale chain where restaurants can buy food products.
“This is the way we get things done in Lake County,” Lauerman said. “We’ve been doing it for five years and there’s no stopping us.”
One of the biggest stories of the year was Lear investing $34 million in a new facility, creating 800 jobs. The question of what would happen to their old facility was answered just last month when Midland Metal Products celebrated the ribbon cutting and migration to Hammond. The manufacturer’s $16 million investment transformed Lear’s former factory into 135 new jobs.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, but through the efforts of good people, our board of directors, my colleague Don Koliboski, and all of the people in this room, we’re making things happen,” Lauerman said. “Indianapolis is recognizing us, and with companies investing and creating new jobs in Lake County, I know we’re doing our jobs!”
Randy Palmateer, business manager of the Northwest Indiana Building and Trades Council, was thrilled by the opportunities the new East Chicago development presents for the Region’s workforce.
“This is awesome, just amazing,” he said. “This is going to put a lot of our local construction workers to work. We don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket, we used to do that in Northwest Indiana with the steel mills and refineries. We won’t always have that, so these coming up is really great stuff.”
To learn more about the Lake County Economic Alliance, visit lcea.us.