KINGSBURY — Longstanding efforts to land a major employer at Kingsbury Industrial Park have received an over $6 million shot in the arm from NIPSCO.
Starting in April, NIPSCO will begin upgrading the electrical system at the industrial park to improve capacity and reliability for existing and future companies.
Mike Seitz, director of economic development for LaPorte County, said the ability to meet the electrical needs of a major employer provides a real advantage in marketing the site.
"It’s a game-changer. It’s very significant," Seitz said.
Don Babcock, director of economic development for NIPSCO, said 395 new wooden utility poles will go up.
Many of the poles will replace existing ones as part of regular maintenance of what’s primarily a 12,500-volt system.
The remainder of the new, much taller poles will go up along 5th Line Road close to where a new rail line is on the drawing board to have the entire park serviced by train cars.
Babcock said those poles will be larger and later tied to 69,000-volt lines serving any major new companies going up.
About 15 miles of electrical transmission and distribution lines will also be replaced and upgraded.
Babcock said all of the upcoming work should be finished before the end of the 2018 construction season.
In 2016, NIPSCO upgraded some of the other existing 12,500-volt circuits at the park.
"We’re continuing to get prepared for development in that area," Babcock said.
Babcock said a few 69,000-volt lines are already in place to meet the electrical needs of existing companies like Accurate Castings.
LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski called the investment a big deal and a potential difference-maker in talks with major employers.
"We’re all in this together. We’re trying to develop that park," Mrozinski said.
Originally, the vision for Kingsbury involved cold storage of produce and other farm goods brought in from Florida on rail cars and hauled to market by truck. Freight cars would then return to Florida with perishable goods from this area.
The venture seemed on the cusp of happening in 2014 but died from litigation and other stumbling blocks.
Seitz said the focus now is anything from various commodities going in and out to new manufacturers using rail to bring in raw materials and ship product.
"It’s nice to be able to have the variety of opportunity that Kingsbury presents for itself," Seitz said.