| Ann Craig-Cinnamon
One of the best yardsticks to measure the health and vitality of any community is the number of businesses it attracts. The decision to open shop or relocate to a new area isn’t done on a whim or by chance. There are often months, even years of negotiations and offers of incentives by the community, the county, and even the state.
The Johnson County Development Corporation (JCDC) is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that helps in the process of bringing business to Johnson County. Cheryl Morphew, who has been the JCDC President and CEO for more than seven years, says it was formed in 1991 as a one-stop shop for businesses looking for a new location. She says they help businesses find available sites, consult on local and state incentives, and provide statistical data and demographics for companies looking to expand and/or relocate to Johnson County. Cheryl points out that Johnson County is one of the five fastest-growing counties in the state according to the last census, along with Hamilton, Hendricks, Boone, and Hancock Counties. And she adds that Johnson County is a solid competitor with the other metro counties when it comes to recruiting business and industry. In fact, the JCDC responded to 105 leads in 2012 with a proposed new capital investment of $50 million.
There are many success stories. The Shell building project in Franklin is one that Cheryl points to and another is in northern Johnson County: the Stones Crossing Health Pavilion. Cheryl says that the developer, Alderson Commercial Group, was working with its clients who were interested in the geographic area of White River Township at Stones Crossing and State Road 135. If the building went up on the east side of State Road 135, the city of Greenwood’s Common Council most likely would have provided a Real Property Tax Abatement.
However, as it turns out, the businesses involved were more interested in the west side of State Road 135 that falls into the Town of Bargersville’s jurisdiction. No one knew what Bargersville might do, because this was the town’s first competitive project. Cheryl says it turned out extremely well. “We worked with the Town and its Council members to educate them on the value of incentives and how they worked. I was so impressed by their thirst for knowledge and understanding, of how they want what’s best for the community, and they want to do the right things to be competitive when it comes to attracting business and industry. Through these combined efforts, they “hung their shingle” and said, “We are open for business and we will consider incentives when evaluating projects.” The result? They granted a Real Property Tax Abatement and won the project.
The new medical professional building, which will house a partnership with Community South Hospital and Johnson Memorial Health, will be finished in July!” says Cheryl, who thinks that Bargersville is on the right track. “Bargersville recently completed their comprehensive plan and has started to put the right plans in place to assist in their future growth. They are keenly aware that growth potential along State Road 37 is a priority and are working to get sewers to that area to support growth demands,” she says.
As for Center Grove and its lack of commercial growth, Cheryl says first you must define Center Grove. “Some would argue that State Road 135 from Stones Crossing to County Line is “Center Grove.” If you agree, then there has been a tremendous amount of commercial/retail growth along that corridor and it continues south. If you are referencing growth along State Road 37, the lack of commercial/retail or even industrial growth is due to a lack of necessary infrastructure to support that type of growth,” she says. For many, the answer lies in the fact that much of Center Grove is in an “unincorporated” area, and no one is actively advocating it to bring in more business.
What Center Grove does have, however, is the right type of housing that Cheryl says companies are seeking. “When we are recruiting business in Johnson County, one of the first questions we hear is, ‘Where is your executive-level housing?’ We serve all of Johnson County regardless of where that company is looking to locate. Currently, our executive-level housing primarily is in the unincorporated areas of Center Grove and the southwestern part of our county. That’s a challenge for other communities vying for the business,” she says.
Another challenge that Cheryl says must be overcome is moving people and products east-west across our county and hopefully connecting State Road 37 and I-69 to I-65 and I-74 in Shelby County.
Cheryl sums up the future challenges by saying, “Trying to address the issues of population growth, the challenge of infrastructure, and how to move people and product will be addressed by an east-west corridor. I think the third interchange in Greenwood along I-65 will help address that as well. But I think, additionally, communities are going to have to think about their future growth opportunities for industry.”
Ann Craig-Cinnamon is a 30 year Radio & TV Broadcast veteran. You may recall her as the host of popular radio morning shows in Indianapolis for many years. She and her husband, John are also business owners. Her lifelong love of world travel led them to start a travel franchise, CruiseOne, in Center Grove. Ann is a writer, travel speaker and author of the book “Walking Naked in Tehran.”