A little over a year after the Steuben County Economic Development Corp. bought a five-building Angola industrial complex to use as a business incubator, the Northern Indiana Lakes Country Enterprise Center has two tenants, several others in the wings and is beginning to close in on its funding goal.
The $700,000 in Regional Cities Initiative funds the EDC requested – about 20 percent of the project’s budget – and another $300,000 manufacturing-related foundation grant it hopes to snag in August will bring it much nearer to its estimated project cost of $3,789,000.
The request was on the Regional Development Authority’s July 19 agenda, but consideration of it has been delayed. The RDA is charged with giving the initial approval of Regional Cities funding requests.
The manufacturing grant, which the EDC hopes to see approved in August, “will bring tremendous resources beyond the money, It will allow us to be part of a national network of industrial training facilities,” said EDC Executive Director David Koenig.
“There’s no guarantee on that money but we feel pretty confident,” he added.
The Steuben Enterprise Center funding proposal is included in the original Road to One Million plan that won northeast Indiana $42 million in Regional Cities development money from the state of Indiana. Not all of the projects that have been approved thus far can make that claim.
“We’ve been there from the start,” Koenig said.
The recruitment of office and industrial users for the incubator, which provides about 70,000 square feet of space on 4.5 acres, has moved forward even as the EDC worked to put the financial pieces of the puzzle in place.
“It’s a lot of moving parts,” Koenig said.
The Steuben EDC closed on the purchase of the complex in May 2015, and became the first occupant of the center in July of the same year.
“We moved ahead with the acquisition because we did not want it to be a thoroughly speculative project, but a project that was already under development, with work done,” Koenig said.
That has made people more comfortable with the idea, and has helped the EDC attract funding from a variety of private sources as well as several potential tenants. Three of those tenants, including one that has already moved in, will together bring in about $1 million in equipment and furnishings.
1) Price Innovations is a local startup that moved in July 1. Founder Lance Price is developing exercise and physical therapy equipment that uses a water chamber.
2) Solar Usage Now, based in Hamilton, acquired equipment to make solar panels and hopes to partner with The Crossings, which offers training and employment assistance, to manufacture the panels there.
3) Dan Caruso and family plan to install culinary arts equipment and furnishings to create a test kitchen and provide culinary arts training.
The first office tenant, MidSolv LLC, a small business IT advisory firm, also moved in July 1. The Steuben County Tourism Bureau plans to move its offices to the complex, following the completion of renovations, and WorkOne also is in discussions to open an office in the center.
Waiting in the wings are a virtual certified public accountant business and a local music educator who will offer piano and other lessons there.
The five-building complex was not practical for a single user, but is perfect for the multiuse plan the EDC put together.
“Our plan was largely driven by the complex itself,” Koenig said.
Building A will be used as a training center, with offices, classrooms and welding stations. Building B will house a visitors center and Building C is a historic barn that will be used as a meeting and co-working space.
Buildings D and E will offer business incubator space to multiple tenants, “but to do that we have a lot of infrastructure work in those buildings that needs to be done,” Koenig said.
Steuben EDC’s 118-page application for Regional Cities funding includes dozens of letters of support from local businesses, individuals and government entities.
“The tight labor force has created real challenges for local and regional employers in an around the city of Angola,” Mayor Richard Hickman said in his letter. “The Enterprise Center will promote manufacturing as a viable career option for young people, veterans and others.”
The Steuben County Board of Commissioners, which provided a $100,000 grant toward the acquisition of the property and is the sponsor and grantee of the $250,000 workforce development grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, noted both the need for skilled workers and the value of nurturing start-up ventures.
“This project also brings significant redevelopment of an area of Angola where revitalization is very much needed,” read a letter from Commissioners President Ronald Smith.
Any funding approved by the RDA board must then get final authorization from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Northern Indiana Lakes Country
Enterprise Center funding proposal
Non-public support - $2,178,121, 67.6 percent
Ivy Tech - $ 50,000, 1.5 percent
Other public support - $ 351,756, 10.3 percent
Regional Cities request - $ 700,000, 20.6 percent
Total funding - $3.405 million
Total cost- $3.789 million
Shortfall - $ 384,000
Source: Steuben County EDC