One look at Portage and you will notice that this is a City on the move. More companies are calling Portage home, and the companies that already do are expanding their facilities to meet their burgeoning needs.
John Shepherd, economic development advisor for the City of Portage says, “Since last year this time, there have been quite a few commercial and industrial projects that have come online.” One of those projects is Ratner Steel and Shepherd explains, “They broke ground a year ago on a steel processing center at the Port of Indiana and it is now open for business. When fully operational they expect to create about 30 jobs. This 102,000 square-foot building has a Redbud stretcher-leveling blanking line with cut edge capacity producing laser quality sheet steel. The building has rail access and four to 30 ton cranes. Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered up to $210,000 in condition tax Indiana income tax credits and Portage approved property tax abatement to induce this investment.”
Another project that has come to Portage recently is Fronius, a manufacturer of electrical inverters and laser welding equipment. “They opened their North American headquarters at Ameriplex along I-94. We in Northwest Indiana should be pleased to have won a national site selection completion. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Portage Redevelopment Commission, Portage City Council and Holladay Corporation put together a winning case for our region. When fully operational in 2017, Fronius anticipates employing 500 people,” Shepherd says.
Jim Fitzer, executive director of the Portage Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO) says, “We also have had Indiana Pickling and Processing at the Port of Indiana complete a 62,000 square-foot addition to their facility with an $8 million investment, which added jobs to our community. Phoenix Services LLC opened a 13 acre distribution facility which has a major contract with Mittal Steel for slag recovery, which is also located at the Port. Additionally, a graphic packaging company called Manufacturing Solutions International has acquired another facility that will consolidate into 157,000 square-foott facility on Carlson Avenue. So that was big, and all of the industrial growth helps to stimulate our community.”
On the retail front, several restaurants opened during 2012 including Ameriplex McDonald's, Texas Roadhouse, and First Wok. Walgreen’s and Fifth Third Bank built new facilities in the Central Avenue Business District. University Center opened and now offers college undergraduate and graduate level courses by Valparaiso University, Calumet College, Ivy Tech State College, Purdue University North Central, and Indiana University Northwest.
Fitzer says, “This facility is an asset to Portage, with classes on the first floor and the second floor used for meeting and office space. We are going to have some county government offices hopefully located in here as well.”
In January 2012, K-Mart announced the closing of its Portage store at the corner of Willowcreek Road and U.S. Highway 6. Concurrently, Meijer announced its purchase of the property. Meijer expects to open its first Porter County location in Portage this spring which will include a new gas station along U.S. 6.
Fitzer says, “We have a lot of activity on the corner of U.S.6 and Willowcreek as a result of the new Meijer with some retail popping up near Wal-mart. Plus, in the last couple of weeks it has been unbelievable the activity we have coming from the state in the Ameriplex area and we will likely have announcements coming out soon, and the yacht club will be demolished and is now prime for development.”
Other plans come through the Portage Redevelopment Commission, says Shepherd. “They initiated a comprehensive planning process which will lead to the revitalization of the U.S. Highway 20 corridor across the city. To date Portage has acquired Don’s Motel and Mobile Home Park and Castaway Motel. Once buildings have been demolished and sites cleaned up, they will be repurposed in accord with the new corridor plan,” he says. Mayor James Snyder adds, “This corridor needs to house the next generation of job growth in Portage as in the next twenty years we will be running out of green space north of I-94. Portage’s economic base must become more diversified. Never did a Portage resident ever believe that they would say they are the proud new owners of the Don’s and Castaway Motels. Today Portage taxpayers are the proud owners of these properties. They are both now scheduled for demolition to pave the way for new jobs and an improved future for the corridor.”
Of additional plans, Mayor Snyder says, “We intend to explore the option on having our current Port Authority manage the City and Redevelopment Commission Assets as we have literally invested tens of millions of dollars in our City north of 94. We must not lose focus on the City’s aging west side, our downtown and the Route 6 corridor. We are aggressively getting ready to purchase Marina Shores, turning that defunct subdivision into a City Asset. This purchase could literally change the entire marina district and will effectively make Portage the second largest Marina City in Indiana on Lake Michigan. Portage intends to show our commitment and investment to the Regional Development Authority helping us capture millions more making our Lakeshore an economic engine like no other in the region. I believe Portage is Indiana’s job leader and this year will be no exception.”