Urschel will build new headquarters, plant in Chesterton

2012-12-21T12:30:00Z 2012-12-23T00:15:05Z Urschel will build new headquarters, plant in ChestertonKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
December 21, 2012 12:30 pm  • 

Urschel Laboratories Inc. will begin construction of a new $104 million corporate headquarters and manufacturing plant at Chesterton's Coffee Creek Center next year, the company announced Friday.

"We are pleased that the 300-plus high-paying jobs are staying in Northwest Indiana — and equally as important — in Porter County," said Urschel Laboratories President Bob Urschel. “Chesterton and Coffee Creek Center are ideally located for our existing employees and the long-term sustainability of the company."

The announcement means the company will move from Valparaiso, where it has been located for more than 50 years. Earlier this year, city officials had identified keeping the company in Valparaiso as "job No. 1."

"It has been a long process, and they have looked at a lot of different sites," said Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas. "This is a company that could have gone anywhere in the country they wanted."

The company has entered into a purchase agreement with Lake Erie Land for 160 acres in the Coffee Creek Center, east of Ind. 49 and north of the Indiana Toll Road, said Bill Baker, Urschel Laboratories director of real estate.

The company has retained Tonn and Blank Construction, of Michigan City, to begin working on the new 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the second quarter of 2013, Baker said.

It is expected to be ready for occupancy in spring 2015. The company's more than 300 employees will transfer to the new manufacturing campus at that time. The company will be by far the largest industrial employer in Chesterton.

"There is nothing on the radar screen even close to this," said Town Manager C. Bernard Doyle. "This is a game changer for Chesterton."

Chesterton officials offered incentives to entice Urschel Laboratories to move to the town, but were referring all questions on that to Matt Reardon with consultant SEH Inc. He was not available for comment Friday.

The company, currently at 2503 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso, designs and manufactures precision food-cutting equipment that is used in the food-processing industry in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Valparaiso officials had hoped to keep the company in the city, where it is deeply woven into the city's economic, cultural and civic fabric.

Costas said while city officials were disappointed the company did not select a site in Valparaiso, they were grateful it chose to remain in Porter County. He said he had been assured the Urschel family would continue its strong commitment to the city.

The current Urschel Laboratory facility pays personal property taxes on its equipment and machinery of about $300,000 per year, Costas said. About $100,000 of that is paid to the city and the rest to the school district and other taxing entities.

Costas said discussions during the past year focused on keeping the company in Valparaiso and really did not broach the idea of what would happen with the company's current buildings at Calumet Avenue and Vale Park Road if it left.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is offering Urschel Laboratories up to $200,000 in training grants, due to the company keeping its operations and jobs in Indiana, said IEDC spokeswoman Katelyn Hancock.

Baker said other states put "very aggressive offers" on the table to entice the company to move to their states. But Baker and other Urschel officials said the effect of any move on employees always was uppermost in their minds.

“Our employees are our greatest asset, and this move ensures we have little or no impact on them or their families,” Urschel said. “I am encouraged that we will continue to manufacture world-class products that are 100 percent made in Northwest Indiana.”

Urschel Laboratories' current manufacturing complex has been expanded 28 times during the past 40 years and developed operational inefficiencies, Baker said.

The company will work with Valparaiso officials to see what can be done with the buildings, Baker said. The Urschel family will be retaining its other real estate holdings in the city, including Cumberland Crossing, where the YMCA is located, and the Vale Park Village Apartments.

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