The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority on Tuesday approved appropriating up to $4.45 million from its deal-closing fund as an enticement to lure three companies to Indiana.
The approval was given at the request of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which is negotiating development deals with the three, according to RDA Finance/Grants Manager Sherri Ziller.
The three companies would provide employment for 314 people in Northwest Indiana and an additional 150 jobs would be relocated here, Ziller told the RDA board at its regular meeting at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana in Merrillville.
RDA Economic Development Working Group Chairman Pete Novak said the companies could not be publicly named now as the deals are being negotiated.
"We are excited about the prospects that have been presented to us to add to employment in Northwest Indiana," Novak said.
The three companies, two to locate in Lake County and one in Porter County, would invest $56 million in establishing their new facilities, Ziller said.
The IEDC also declined to offer any specifics when asked Tuesday.
"The RDA’s approval is just one step in the process of securing these projects," IEDC spokeswoman Katelyn Hancock wrote in an e-mailed statement. "Out of respect for the companies, all details are confidential until we have completed negotiations and have a final acceptance from them."
The IEDC, the state's department of commerce, would provide $4.7 million in incentives if the deals are finalized, Ziller said.
Novak said he did not know when the deals would close, but he pointed out the whole point of the deal-closing fund is to provide gap funding once all state and local incentives have been committed.
"From my perspective, they (IEDC) needed a commitment relatively soon so they could finalize the decision," Novak said.
The three deals would appear to be the first of a number that local economic development officials said were in the works over the summer. At a July meeting, RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna told his board it may have to reshape its deal-closing fund to handle the large number of prospects in the pipeline.
In 2011, the RDA put up a combined $6 million to close deals with Modern Forge, a manufacturer, and Canadian National Railway to bring jobs to Northwest Indiana.
Novak would not say if the prospective companies are from Illinois, but he pointed out Indiana's substantial tax advantage over the debt-distressed state has more and more employers there considering moves to Indiana.
Novak told the board the RDA money only would be granted to each project if the deal goes through. If not, the money stays with the RDA.
The RDA board at its meeting also approved creation of a Community Challenge Fund that would dole out up to $1 million per year in grants to communities that put up matching funds for worthwhile projects. Individual grants will be restricted to a maximum of $200,000 each.