Signs along Marion Street in Indy indicate what’s coming for the former GM Stamping Plant. (IIB photo/Wes Mills)

In the months ahead, sounds of heavy equipment should echo throughout The Valley, a neighborhood on the near west side of downtown Indianapolis, as work begins on the new $100 million global headquarters for Elanco Animal Health Inc. (NYSE: ELAN). The company and state and local government leaders broke ground on the project Tuesday, calling it a transformational step for a long-vacant piece of industrial land that once housed the GM Stamping Plant. But beyond the investment into the community, officials believe it also serves as a signal to the global agbioscience sector.

“To have the headquarters land here in Indianapolis and in Indiana, I think cements a lot of things that we know and understand about the agriculture industry, in this case, specifically on the animal sector in Indiana that we’ve got the people, we’ve got the talent to be able to come to a place like Indiana to do this good work,” said Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler.

Elanco’s $6.9 billion purchase of German-based Bayer Animal Health in 2020 vaulted the company to the second largest independent animal health company in the world. Such growth prompted the company, in part, to further examine its business and research space in Greenfield. In December 2020, Elanco announced plans to invest $300 million statewide in its operations, including $100 million to build its new headquarters in Indianapolis.

“The complexity of this really made us look at a campus of the future, one that ideates, that collaborates, that creates innovation,” said Simmons in December, adding the company is thinking big about its new home. “It has to be a destination…ultimately, our bigger vision on the west side of that river in Indianapolis, on this campus we want to create an epicenter.”

Simmons says the new campus is the first piece of a planned animal health epicenter in Indianapolis being developed in collaboration with AgriNovus, the state of Indiana’s food and agriculture initiative, and business incubator High Alpha.

“Not many people are building headquarters and I want to highlight that we’re building a destination not an obligation for our employees,” said Simmons in an interview with Inside INdiana Business. “It will have state of the art laboratories, it will have an incubator for our partners that will be here innovating to take advantage of that global access to animals. We’ll have a multi-use collaboration building that will have scientific forums that we’ve never had in our industry happen.”

The partners say the complex will include a venture studio and makerspace for innovation to attract agbioscience entrepreneurs.

“This is going to put our state, our capital city, on the world map in terms of being the epicenter of animal health, excellence and innovation,” said Governor Eric Holcomb. “Now we’re entering into this new frontier of creating those very products, the research and the development. The makerspace, the incubator, and the collaboration that will occur here, [attracting] the best talent around the world, like a magnet come to Indianapolis.”

There have been other attempts to develop the 90-acre property that sits in the shadow of downtown skyrises. One included the now-scrapped Waterside mixed-use development project from Indy-based Ambrose Property Group. When the developer announced plans to drop the project, city and state development officials wondered who they could attract, and how.

Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons (L), Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers (C), Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). (IIB photo/Wes Mills)

According to our partners at the Indianapolis Business Journal, a final incentives package included nearly $90 million in state tax credits, $4 million in training grants, 45 acres of property, and $64 million from the city, largely in the form of infrastructure improvements funded by revenue from a tax-increment-financing district.

Holcomb say the incentives are a good investment for the state.

“That ROI [return-on-investment] is all performance based in our mind. This is TOO prime of a piece of property, just to put any old thing on it,” said Holcomb.

For the city’s part, it will help increase accessibility to the site through construction of a new, two-way bridge across the White River at Henry Street. Plans also include construction of a new pedestrian bridge.
The remaining 40+ acres of the industrial site call for future mixed-use development, including residential and retail elements.

“I think the important thing and part of what Elanco was looking for when they were looking for locations for their headquarters, they wanted to be part of the community,” said Kettler. “They’ve always had that history. I think that goes clear back to the Eli Lilly days. This facility in this location is really going to start a renaissance in this part of Indianapolis that everybody wants to see.”

Official construction of Elanco’s new facility is expected to commence in the coming months and take approximately two to three years to complete.

Artist rendering of Elanco Animal Health’s new headquarters. (provided)