Northwest Indiana has made a name as one of the most sought-after regions to do business, and the reasons speak for themselves. Illinois Real Estate Journal recently spoke with Jeff Bennett, Managing Partner at McColly Bennett Commercial Advantage, a full-service, geographically-based commercial real estate firm, to discuss why the broader community has been a go-to.
From Bourbonnais, Illinois, to Michigan City, Indiana, across all sectors, McColly’s portfolio is broad. With 50% of business in Illinois and the other 50% in Northwest Indiana, McColly offers a unique and valuable perspective in that there’s plenty of success to go around. Some companies are relocating to the region, but McColly doesn’t seek to take business away from Chicagoland. The goal, instead, is to add to Northwest Indiana in the form of business expansion, and Bennett said he’s seeing more and more of it.
Cities like Michigan City and those along Route 80 along I-65 have bloomed into frontiers of development. New construction is taking place in all sectors, more specifically, projects driven by e-commerce, as seen so prevalently around Chicagoland. Companies across the U.S. continue to seek future opportunities here because of its availability of land—and labor—to build and operate manufacturing/warehouse buildings.
In addition, Bennett said there’s also been an uptick in the reconstruction of outdated buildings into new manufacturing/warehouse buildings.
It’s a chain reaction of explosive growth, and many sectors are riding the upward curve. New manufacturing buildings result in a need for more multifamily units, more multifamily units result in a need for retail/entertainment, and so on.
“There’s increased demand in Cedar Lake, St. John and Schererville as a result of new spendable income, spurring the need for new retail centers.”
The Hard Rock Casino located along the South Shore of Lake Michigan is a specific example of a project that kickstarted others around it. The top-earning casino in Indiana, following its opening in May 2021, has resulted in neighboring restaurants, hotels—even office buildings—to satisfy demand.
“These projects are new, and they give us momentum going into 2023,” Bennett said. “Last year was the best year to date for our company, and we think this year will be even better.”
Land and labor aside, there are other factors at the root of outsiders’ interest, including the region’s renewable fuels, infrastructure and location in the center of the U.S. McColly reported in 2022 that the region was awarded $51 million to enhance infrastructure, and progress is still being made on the South Shore Commuter Rail, running from Chicago to South Bend.
But this much growth does make some wonder whether or not the challenges being faced in Chicago, like the lack of land and labor, will eventually bleed into Northwest Indiana. Bennett doesn’t think so and said the region’s proximity will only continue to be beneficial. Simply put, Northwest Indiana is unique for a reason, and it’s just getting started.
“[The success of] McColly is a good pulse of growth,” Bennett said, “and we’re in a prime area doing business in Northwest Indiana.”
Don Koliboski, Vice President of Economic Development for LCEA, agreed.
Koliboski said Crow Holdings Industrial (CHI) recently broke ground in Merrillville for the area’s newest 195-acre Class A Business Industrial Park, the Silos at Sanders Farm in Lake County’s central sector. CHI will invest close to $250 and build more than two million square feet under roof along Mississippi Street and I-65 with initial space delivery anticipated in early 2023.
CHI brought Big Lots distribution just across I-65 at AmeriPlex at the Crossroads (Merrillville), which is includes the Purdue Technology Center, a home for burgeoning tech and tech related companies. The Missner Group, another national developer, is joining them in bringing approximately 80+ acre development for advanced light manufacturing, food production, distribution, or e-commerce among other target industries.
These developers and companies like Domino’s Dough Production, Amazon, Dawn Foods, and many others now know firsthand the competitive advantages of their new locations and positioned for prosperity in Lake County, Indiana.
“While manufacturing is still the county’s number one target industry, we continue to diversify from our legacy steel and refining operations to agri-business, advanced manufacturing, logistics and warehousing, e-commerce fulfillment, and call/data centers,” said Koliboski. “With health care/medical, office, retail and hospitality complimenting residential development, Lake County is in a position to grow and pivot to accommodate consumer demand and delivery expectations.”
“The lower cost of doing business has always been a major draw for investors and companies looking to serve their bottom line while catering to employees and clients. Not only is Lake County, Indiana, a great area to locate and expand business operations, it is ripe for investment,” said Anna Mihajlovic, Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator for LCEA.