Laurent discusses development issues

PLYMOUTH — Marshall County has a lot of land available to companies, but not many suitable buildings. This is a problem, according to Marshall County Economic Development directer Jennifer Laurent.
“Seventy-five to 80 percent of inquires we get are about existing buildings,” said Laurent to Marshall County commissioners Monday in their regularly scheduled meeting.
She added that while there are several empty buildings in the county, they are not modern enough for businesses’ needs. The major disadvantages of the county’s buildings are age — all are over 10 years old, and most 20 or more years old, size — a majority are less than 20,000 square feet, negative image, ceiling heights of less than 25 feet, and multi-tenant occupancy.
“The gist of it is that we are not in the game,” said Laurent. “I get an inquiry and I have to let it go by, and that hurts, to not be able to respond.”
The largest building on the market in Marshall County, said Laurent, is a 75,000 building in Bourbon. This facility “does not show well” to people from outside the area, said Laurent.
“I’m embarrassed if I show that building to someone who is not from around here, if they’ve come from Ohio (or another area),” said Laurent.
Recently proposed by the Marshall County Economic Development Center (MCEDC) and the Plymouth Industrial Development Corporation (PIDCO) is a spec building valued at $2 million, to be built along U.S. 30 in the Tech Farm area. This building, a 45,000 square foot project, will hopefully attract the eye of a large corporation offering higher-end jobs to the community. Terre Haute-based Garmong Construction Services will build the facility. The city of Plymouth is considering an agreement that will pledge a portion of the city’s Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds to pay interest payments on the property until it is sold. The interest is estimated to be $115,000 annually.
“We would love to see construction yet this year,” said Laurent to commissioners Monday. “That may or may not happen. Our developer is very interested in being a community player, in using local suppliers as much as possible.”
Although one criticism of the spec building plan has been that the MCEDC should instead try to get companies into existing empty buildings, Laurent said that that’s not always feasible.
“The folks that say, ‘we have too many empty buildings’ are not knowledgeable, and I challenge them to get involved in economic development…and understand the dynamics,” said Laurent.