Urschel breaks ground on Chesterton plant
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent July 11, 2013 11:44PM
Employees begin digging at the Urschel Laboratories Groundbreaking Ceremony in Chesterton, Ind., Thursday, July 11, 2013. More than 300 employees were invited to participate in the ground breaking. Each employee received an engraved shovel. | Taylor Irby~For Sun-Times Media
By the numbers
Cost of new Urschel Laboratories Inc. project, including land and structure: More than $80 million
Size of current facility: 250,000 square feet
Size of new facility: 350,000 square feet
Site: 157 acres on County Road 200E in Coffee Creek; new facility will be on 71 acres
Construction schedule: 18 months
Source: Bill Baker, director, Urschel Development Corp.
Updated: August 13, 2013 6:32AM
CHESTERTON — With gleaming shovels in hand, about 320 Urschel Laboratories Inc. employees broke ground on their new location in Coffee Creek on Thursday, digging out the round company logo while a photographer in a helicopter flew overhead.
The project, slated for completion in 18 months, will move the longstanding Valparaiso business to Chesterton at a cost well over $80 million, said Bill Baker, director of Urschel Development Corp.
The site, at 965 N. County Road 200E, is 157 acres; the new facility will sit on 71 acres, allowing for growth, Baker said.
The company, which makes precision cutting equipment for the food and other industries, is landlocked at its current location, 2503 Calumet Ave., where it’s been since 1958, and has undergone numerous expansions. The fate of that location has not been determined.
The move is a financial boon to Chesterton. Town attorney Chuck Lukmann said the company is buying Economic Development Commission bonds worth $17 million to $25 million. The bonds do not represent a financial obligation to the town.
Moreover, the development is in a tax increment finance district, so 85 percent of the property taxes paid by the company over the next 20 to 23 years will go toward infrastructure improvements in the district, including extending Gateway Boulevard through Coffee Creek to the new facility.
The remaining 15 percent of property taxes will go back to the town, Lukmann said, generating $4.6 million over the life of the TIF. Since the lot has been empty until now, that’s money the town wouldn’t be getting otherwise.
“We don’t lose a penny from the general fund and we don’t lose money in the TIF because there’s nothing there,” Lukmann said.
Company president and chief executive officer Bob Urschel said company officials have talked about their space shortage for a number of years and considered other options, including building a parking garage at the existing location or a warehouse across the street, neither of which were feasible.
He said his son Rick, the company’s vice president, suggested a new facility, and the idea went from there. “That’s when we started looking around,” Urschel said.
The company, founded in 1910, undertook a nationwide search for a new location but decided, for the sake of its employees, to stay in the region and settled on Coffee Creek, Baker said.
“We’ve never felt more welcome any place, ever,” Urschel said, going on to thank Tonn and Blank Construction, which will handle the construction, as it did the Calumet Avenue facility and subsequent expansions.
Chesterton officials were thrilled with the opportunity for the company to find a new home in Chesterton, Town Councilman Jeff Trout said.
“It’s an honor to keep the Valparaiso company and everything it represents in Porter County,” he said.
Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, a longtime friend of the Urschel family, said the company’s employees are amazing.
“I’m excited you stayed in Porter County. That’s the best thing,” she said.
Employees, eating pizza before the groundbreaking ceremony, were excited about the new location as well.
Katherine Bilic-Fiets of Valparaiso has worked at Urschel for 15 years and is senior international sales coordinator.
“I’m glad to be a part of it. I know we’ve outgrown where we were. Coming out here is just beautiful, and I know our customers will enjoy coming to the new factory, too,” she said. “I’m just impressed that we’re able to do this, build a huge factory out here.”