The oft-used phrase in real estate circles is “location, location, location,” and that hackneyed remark is ringing true for economic development officials in Hammond. Last week, the redevelopment commission approved three major projects, totaling more than $160 million in investment. Hammond Economic Development Director Anne Anderson says the state’s pro-business environment is paying off for the Lake County city that sits on the Indiana-Illinois border.
“We were trying to entice Illinois companies over, but to be honest they’re just calling our phones now,” said Anne Anderson, director of economic development. “Many of them are looking to relocate out of Illinois for a variety of reasons. And Hammond being positioned right on the border of Illinois, we’re often the first city that these companies call.”
One of those projects includes a Chicago-area based meat processing company that announced plans to invest $35 million to construct a new facility in Hammond.
“They’re building on an under underutilized former industrial site that sat vacant,” said Anderson.
Anderson says Meats by Linz has been looking for the right location in Hammond for ten years. Persistence has apparently paid off as the company says it will move its operations from Calumet City on Chicago’s southside to Indiana and will eventually employ 300 workers.
“We definitely don’t want to create any ill will because we want to be considered part of the Chicagoland footprint, but still keep our identity as Northwest Indiana, welcoming residents and businesses with our business-friendly atmosphere,” said Anderson.
The other two projects do not include a relocation to the city, however they do represent an investment into the community.
Finland-based Huhtamaki North America says it will invest $100 million to expand its facility in Hammond. The packaging manufacturer says the 250,000-square-foot addition will result in about 100 new jobs when its operational in 2023.
“Huhtamaki is a very established Hammond business that’s been there for decades,” Anderson explained. “We were up against another state for that expansion. And we worked months and months and months to get it located in Hammond.”
The other project involved the vacant Bank Calumet building, an iconic landmark in downtown Hammond. The city and the Hammond Redevelopment Commission last week approved an agreement with NWI Hohman LLC for the project.
The city says the developer will invest $24 million to develop 100 market rate apartments and 10,000-square-feet of ground floor commercial space.
“It’s exciting because that’s one of the few residential projects that we have in downtown Hammond that’s coming up. And that’s all because of two things, a downtown master plan that we had created in 2019,” said Anderson.
While the city developed a master plan for its downtown, what it could not plan for was the global pandemic. Anderson says companies that had made inquiries about placing or expanding their businesses in Hammond, put those plans on hold because of COVID. But she says some companies are now looking to implement those plans. But certain challenges persist.
“They want to start right away because they already are feeling the delays with supplies and materials, but also the workforce,” said Anderson. “Everyone started on their big projects again. There’s kind of a slight shortage in workforce because there’s so many projects starting right now.”
Despite the recent successes, Anderson says economic development officials continue to grapple with “preconceived ideas” that Hammond is only an older industrial city. But, Anderson says she is already feeling a change in tides and is “confident the progress Mayor Tom McDermott and the economic development team is making is changing attitudes.”