Gary backs industrial park, plant expansion
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent June 9, 2014 7:30PM
Updated: July 11, 2014 6:25AM
GARY — By early next year, Gary may be home to an alternative fuel production plant on the northwest side, according to city and company officials.
But the bigger prize may be a deal the city struck with Carmeuse Lime, an industrial minerals company, to develop an industrial park in Buffington Harbor, now home to Majestic Star Casino and plenty of unused land.
Carmeuse Lime operations manager Jeff Bitner said the company sought help from the city in acquiring 200 acres after reaching an impasse with the casino owners.
The company, which paid $10 million for the land, “found the mayor and her team very helpful and innovative in finding a solution to bridge those gaps and ultimately find a win-win-win solution,” Bitner said.
As part of the deal between Gary and Carmeuse Lime, 70 of the 200 acres will go to the company’s expansion, with the balance conveyed to the city to attract clean technology businesses, according to a news release issued by the city. Of the 130 acres going to Gary, the city and Carmeuse Lime will split any revenue generated from future development of 60 of those acres.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Joe Van Dyk, head of the city’s redevelopment department, joined Bitner for the announcement at city hall on Monday.
“There’s a lot of interest in that area, and we haven’t had a great opportunity like this to place a lot of these interested businesses,” Van Dyk said, declining to name companies interested in the industrial park. “This is just the beginning of a lot of opportunity and a lot of development in that area.”
Bitner said Carmeuse Lime also will team with Vexor Energy Indiana, which was incorporated in February, to build an alternative energy plant that will convert materials ranging from metals to plastics, much of which “would otherwise not be recyclable,” into an “engineered fuel” that will displace coal use by up to half at Carmeuse’s existing plant in Buffington Harbor.
Bitner said tests at the company’s plants in Gary and Ohio “demonstrated a significant reduction of anywhere from 20 (percent) to 80 percent of the criteria emissions we’re examining” by switching to the alternative fuel.
The proposed plant, 6480 Industrial Highway, would cost $8 million to $10 million to build next to the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Besides the construction work (30 percent of which is earmarked for Gary companies and employees), 30 to 40 full-time jobs from materials handling to clerical and lab technicians will be created, according to city and company officials.
Bitner said no tax incentives or subsidies will be used to finance the plant. The deal between Gary and Carmeuse includes a $250,000, 10-year investment in workforce development, part of an overall commitment to developing the area, officials said.
Along with the city’s focus on “eds and meds,” or attracting educational center and medical businesses to Gary, “this is something we believe is on the cutting edge,” Freeman-Wilson said of the planned industrial park and plant.