Last September, Pratt Industries announced their plans to build a $260 million, 250,000-square-foot paper recycling plant next to its cardboard box plant. It was only possible through the months and months of work from city officials working with business leaders to find the right parcel of land, and Rex Richards, president of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce says that this has been a major effort of their group and the city to attract further businesses to the region.
“The biggest game changer we have now is that we’ve actually got shovel ready sites that we did not have in the past,” says Richards. “Three or four years ago we didn’t have any sites that had utilities and the proper zoning so it was ready to go when a company comes in and wants a location to build a facility. We have about three or four parcels now with sufficient acreage to be attractive.”
“One example is the property that is owned by the Redevelopment Commission just east of Eastport Centre. They acquired 38 to 40 acres about a year ago and it is being prepared with Chester who is providing some engineering. That will be an extension of the activity at Eastport Centre. Eastport Centre has been one of the best examples of a commercial industrial tract in recent years and it was running out of space. That parcel is now ready to go and we’ve been showing that site to prospects,” Richards says.
“Another site is the Lakes of Valparaiso at the corner of 400 North and Ind. 49 and that is part of the larger tract that Don Weiss has acquired. It has been approved by the city with a development plan and we’ve been showing that to prospects. Additionally, we have some property south of the airport and south of HWY 30, but it fronts on HWY 30. This parcel is 50 acres called the Von Tobel parcel and it has been annexed into the city with a large utility line that makes it a very nice parcel. Immediately east of that is a parcel owned by Mr. Silvester who had a very large farm. A group of Valparaiso business people purchased that and divided it into industrial parcels. It is called the Montdale Industrial Park. Immediately east of that is the land that Mr. Silvester still owns and it is zoned industrial with the same sanitary sewer line. It is in the city limits and ready to go,” he says.
What this means is that Valparaiso is attractive to business expansion and development. Richards says, “We have sites that have utilities, good frontage roads, and are pretty easy to develop when people decide they want to purchase the land. But we also have businesses that choose to stay in Valparaiso when they need to expand. About two years ago, Indiana Beverage, originally called North Coast, was looking for a new location and went out on a major search all across Indiana. They decided to stay in Valparaiso but go south of Highway 30 and they built their new corporate headquarters and distribution plant and that was a big success to keep that business in Valparaiso. Last year we got AM Stabilizer to purchase the old Task Force Tips building on Evans Avenue. We want our businesses to have options in Valparaiso if they want to expand, like Task Force Tips, like Indiana Beverage, so we have land sufficient in size with all of the amenities. We have found that 80 percent of the new jobs that are created in Valpo come from existing business, so we work with the city and the incentives the city has such as TIFs or tax abatements to have companies grow or locate here, like Pratt Industries. We’ve been successful over the past years making it very attractive for companies.”