Richmond mayor: ‘This is the start of our climb’
The city of Richmond has faced more than its share of challenges with lost population and lost jobs, but based on some recent economic development news, there is hope for a rosier future. The Wayne County seat, like many Midwest manufacturing towns, has felt the impact of the nation’s changing manufacturing economy, but the negative drum beat of layoffs and deserted factories is being replaced by a record surge in investment, jobs and renewed community momentum.
“We’ve been working for years to turn that tide, and I can stand here and say with confidence that here in Richmond and Wayne County, we are turning it in a big way, and I feel like this is the start of our climb,” said Richmond Mayor Dave Snow.
The city saw record first quarter investment of nearly $500 million in the Midwest Industrial Park.
New York’s Liberation Labs, a precision fermentation company in the food industry, said in January it would invest $115 million to develop its first biomanufacturing facility in east central Indiana and create 45 jobs.
In February, MV Pipe LLC announced it will construct a new pipe manufacturing plant on a 40-acre site, a project expected to create 111 jobs.
Last month, premium pet food maker Blue Buffalo announced plans to invest $200 million to add 169,000 square feet of space to its existing facility and create up to 60 jobs.
And Wayne County’s growing cluster of pet food companies could lead to yet another announcement from an as-yet-unnamed company.
“Project Thomas is what we’re working on finalizing now, and that will be a rail transload facility to support the pet food industry here in this region. Blue Buffalo is their primary customer, but they will be building to have excess capacity so that they can support other pet food companies in the area,” Shaffer said. “And that will be a tremendous asset to us not only for our existing businesses, but also for the new businesses coming online in our ability to potentially attract more to really become the capital of pet food processing in the nation.”
The city is also making progress on finding ways to accommodate the new businesses and employees, and attract more in the future with two main focus areas: transportation and housing.
More than $60 million in road projects are underway in Richmond, all part of major infrastructure improvements that officials hope will bring in more business to the city.
“INDOT is in the process of actually tearing down and rebuilding [the] U.S. 27 bridge in the heart of downtown Richmond,” Shaffer said. “And in addition to that, in the fall, they will start the widening of I-70 all the way through Wayne County from the state line over to the west. There’s also a lot of major INDOT infrastructure projects within the heart of the community as well.”
Mayor Snow said the city is close to securing a nearly $40 million project for 150 apartments at the site of the former Elder Biermann department store in the city’s downtown.
“Our downtown has never had a single one time $40 million investment, and I truly see it as an economic engine,” Snow said. “Once you put 150 market rate units in a downtown like ours, you build in that audience. People that will live there shop there. They need places to hang out. They need that third place, and they want to find it close to where they live. So, I see it as a huge turn of the trajectory of our downtown.”