Blog

Building on a National Brand

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Region on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

Last week, I took a look back at some of the great successes in 2016 related to residential, hospitality and retail development. Today, I’ll take a closer look the office, industrial, utility and health care industries as well as some of the key infrastructure projects that helped drive development in the past year.

The office market saw some nice activity in 2016. Advance Centers for Cancer Care will soon call One Michiana Square home after a major renovation. Main Street Row in South Bend is undergoing a face lift. Catalyst One and Two have opened in Ignition Park with the University of Notre Dame Turbomachinery Laboratory as a primary tenant among several others. Construction has also begun in the Renaissance District on the former Studebaker buildings.

On the industrial front, General Stamping and Sheet Metal neared completion on its new Blackthorn location. Pepsi, Chase Plastics and Fed-Ex moved into new space at Ameriplex 80/90. AM General announced plans to occupy a new 200,000-square-foot building at Ameriplex. Patrick Industries announced it would occupy the former Affinia Building on 12th Street in Mishawaka. Total Quality Logistics expanded in Blackthorn, and 3B Tech said it would occupy the former Invacare Warehouse at Blackthorn.

Three major health care projects progressed. The Department of Veterans Affairs began construction on its new $38 million clinic, and Beacon Health began construction on the $50 million Memorial Children’s Hospital. Beacon also completed construction and opened the new Beacon Health and Fitness Facility on Beacon Parkway.

A number of major infrastructure projects aimed at supporting development also advanced in 2016. Those included a $200 million investment aimed at improving the Indiana Toll Road, major improvements to Indiana 23, the implementation of Smart Streets in South Bend, and the elimination of one more stoplight on U.S. 31. Also, the South Bend International Airport advanced plans for its international services and a new fixed-based operator opened at the airport.

In addition, a number of key utility projects were advanced or completed in 2016. AEP constructed solar facilities in Mishawaka and New Carlisle. St. Joseph Energy began construction on a $500 million natural gas generating power plant in New Carlisle. The University of Notre Dame moved forward on a major geothermal project on campus and announced plans for a hydroelectric facility in Seitz Park in downtown South Bend. Mishawaka made plans for future water needs with the acquisition of property that will be the home a new well field on the north side of the city.

Innovation Park at Notre Dame announced plans for a $13 million project to add a second building. The St. Joseph County Public Library announced plans for $5.5 million expansion in downtown South Bend. Indiana University South Bend completed renovations of Northside Hall and the Administration Building, and Notre Dame completed construction of a new boathouse near the Farmers Market.

Beyond all of those projects, Notre Dame is perhaps in the busiest construction period in its history with more than $712 million in planned improvements. Work is underway on the Campus Crossroads project, Jenkins Hall and Nanovic Hall, the Hesburgh Library, two undergraduate residence halls, and an interdisciplinary research facility.

The projects I mentioned today as well as those mentioned last week are important and contribute to a growing economy. But we’ve got a lot of work ahead to keep pace with our competition across the country and around the world. Another year like this past one and it will be hard for the outside world not to take notice. 

Housing & Hotels Rise in 2016

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Region on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative was designed to help communities across Indiana come together to transform their regions into nationally recognized destinations to live, work and play. Our region was one of three regions selected, and 2016 will be remembered as an important turning point in growing that national brand.

Our end-of-the-year report card reveals high employment, low unemployment, rising wages, growing population and some $300 million in new private investment on key projects around the area. Local, regional and national investors have taken note and are buying in and investing in the bright future that lies ahead in our region.

Residential construction will dominate most year-end reviews for the area. More than 2,400 new residential units, most in the urban core of South Bend or Mishawaka were announced, were under construction or were completed in 2016. In Mishawaka, the River Rock project was completed in the downtown, adding 70 units to the marketplace.

Elsewhere, construction should begin early in 2017 on several other downtown Mishawaka housing projects, including the River Walk Apartments, River Front Forge Condominiums (33 units), and the Mill at Ironworks Plaza (230 units). Add to those, construction at GrandView (200 units), Fir Road North (400 units) and Fir Road South (516 units).

But that tells only a part of the story, South Bend has a housing boom of its own underway. Recently, the former Hoffman Hotel (48 units) and the Colfax & Hill Development (17 units) have opened. In the midst of construction is the renovation of The LaSalle (67 units), the JMS Building (52 units) and the former Chase Tower (83 units). On the drawing board are the East Bank Flats (12 units), the Wharf site Project (24 units), River Race Flats (32 units), the Commerce Center (250 units), the former Madison Center (55 units), Berlin Flats (120 units), and the Hibberd Building (12-16 units). Another 90 residential units are planned on the former Transpo site, just east of downtown. Also, the 202 units at The Pointe in South Bend experienced a major renovation in 2016.

Two new hotels opened in 2016, the Holiday Inn and Conference Center on Douglas Road in Mishawaka and the Motel 6 in Roseland. Construction is now underway at the Aloft Hotel and Courtyard by Marriott Downtown South Bend and the Holiday Inn at Toscana Park, the Home 2 Suites on Edison and the Candlewood Suites on Douglas, all in Mishawaka. Another hotel is planned for construction at Blackthorn and the Inn at Saint Mary's experienced a major renovation in 2016.

On the retail side, Wilshire Plaza in Mishawaka experienced the biggest transformation as it added Sky Zone, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Christopher & Banks, Carter's Osh Kosh, and DSW over the past year.

Our stock is on the rise. We are anticipating a strong 2017 when you add the announced projects above to those nearing completion. Today, people all around Indiana are taking note and in the future people around the country will also realize all our region has to offer.

But we've touched on just a part of the story. Next week I'll take a closer look at the office, industrial, utility and health care sectors as well as some of the key infrastructure projects driving development in our area.

Also published in the December 21, 2016 South Bend Tribune

Early Childhood Learning a Top Priority

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Region on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

In Indiana, a recent focus on building the necessary infrastructure and creating the right business climate has positioned the state to be a leader in job creation in the Midwest and across the country.

But business and policy leaders recognize that without the people to fill important positions in the employment pipeline, the state won’t reach its full potential. And they know that developing people begins with getting kids off to the right start with quality prekindergarten programs.

I was lucky. When I was very young, I was blessed with some outstanding learning opportunities at home, at my church, at the YMCA, and at my elementary school prior to entering kindergarten. I began school with a good educational foundation and a strong support network at home. That helped me excel in elementary, junior high, high school and college.

Those experiences prepared me well for the workplace and helped me succeed in the various jobs I’ve held through the years. Many of you likely have a similar experience. Unfortunately, these days many people do not. Many lack the opportunities prior to kindergarten to build that necessary foundation and spend a lifetime trying to play catch-up.

Today, Indiana is one of only eight states without a publicly funded pre-K program. Only 36 percent of Indiana’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K programs, compared with 46 percent nationally. And Hoosier families currently spend a higher share of their incomes on early childhood care and education than do families in other states, about $7,500 annually.

The need is great. For example, just 31 percent of low-income 3- and 4-year-olds attend public or private preschool/prekindergarten programs, as compared with 41 percent of their peers from higher-income families. Indiana’s share of children from low-income families is substantially higher than the national average — 62 percent of children ages zero to 5 are from low-income families, compared with a national average of 47 percent.

State leaders have taken the first steps to implement a statewide pre-K program. In 2014, Indiana lawmakers created a voluntary Early Education Pilot Program that offers prekindergarten in five counties. Elkhart and St. Joseph counties were passed over for that pilot. The pilot currently serves only 1,585 children, but the effort signifies a significant step toward developing a permanent state-funded pre-K program.

A statewide program will likely contain three priorities: creating or expanding existing highly rated child care programs, recruiting and retaining a well-trained preschool workforce, and funding infrastructure changes where needed.

But legislative leaders are advocating a go-slow approach to expanding the state-funded preschool program and warn there might be little money to boost school spending in the next state budget. Widespread rollout could carry a big price tag. Currently 65 out of 92 counties in Indiana have no state preschool investment.

Data from recent studies suggest that Hoosier families are unable to access, afford or realize the benefits associated with high-quality programs without an expanded state role in funding and regulation. It will be one of the most important debates in the 2017 legislative session.

Business leaders will have an opportunity to learn more at a “Success Starts Early” breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at WNIT Television, 300 Jefferson Blvd., South Bend. There, leaders will learn more about how making a commitment to high-quality pre-K programs can yield a high return on investment and contribute to a stronger economy.

Representatives from Early Learning Indiana and local leaders will share information and answer questions regarding what is slated to be a hot topic in the next legislative session. Interested parties can register at www.sjchamber.org. For more information on pre-K programs in Indiana, visit www.earlylearningin.org.

Celebrating Entrepreneurship

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
SouthBendRegion on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

On November 15, we celebrated one of those “holidays” that doesn’t get a lot of attention, Entrepreneurship Day. The day went along without much fanfare. Most of us didn’t even know about the special day. But none of us went through the day without interacting with a good, service or product that was dreamed up or launched by an entrepreneur.

The word entrepreneur originates from the French word, entreprendre, which means “to undertake.” In a business context, it means to start a business.

Think about it. From the time we wake up each morning, we encounter new products or services that were dreamed up or improved on by an entrepreneur.

Those new products have changed each of our lives, in many cases made life easier. Think about where we might be had Henry Ford not found a way to build cars or had the Wright Brothers not figured out how we could fly. Even a Sam Walton, of often-maligned big box fame, was an entrepreneur seeking a better way and turned that into a successful business model.

Locally, entrepreneurs like the Studebakers, Olivers, Beigers and Eberharts built our economy and a culture that saw hundreds of businesses launch across the region. But over the years as we became more of a company town, fewer people launched new ideas and more went to work at one of our larger employers.

But times are changing, and new businesses are the fastest-growing sector of our economy, with about 23 percent of workers in the South Bend-Mishawaka Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) working for firms that have between one and 10 employees. Some businesses are starting in their basements or garages, others in that vacant storefront that we’ve long hoped would be filled.

Great risk is involved in launching a product or venture and as many fail as succeed. But our community is working to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem to support those brave entrepreneurs aiming to take off. The Small Business Development Center, Elevate Ventures, SCORE and the SPARK Program at Saint Mary’s College offer great local resources and support services for budding entrepreneurs.

Our local universities also have become an important incubator for entrepreneurs in our region. In fact experts predict that real economic development and business growth will be centered around universities in the future. Efforts like Innovation Park at Notre Dame have served as a real catalyst to students, faculty, researchers and community members to launch business opportunities. A second building will be added in 2017 to further aid this effort. A few years back, enFocus was launched here locally to foster an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem for young professionals to support the founding of new companies, and help existing companies grow through data-driven process improvement, technology deployment, and business consulting and analysis.

For students, the St. Joe CEO program was introduced to prepare our youth to become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers. In the program, students are immersed in real-life learning experiences with the opportunity to take risks, manage the results and learn from the outcomes. A similar program will be launched in Elkhart County in 2017. Junior Achievement also continues to introduce students locally to entrepreneurship.

When you are out today, remember to say thank you to those entrepreneurs you know for taking the risk and for making our community a better place. Happy Entrepreneurship Day!

Also published in the South Bend Tribune

Is Housing Boom in Area Related to Population Growth?

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Region on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 12:00:00 am


I had an opportunity last week to join the celebration of the grand opening of the River Rock Apartment Project on West Mishawaka Avenue in Mishawaka. The $15 million project includes 73 one- and two-bedroom units close to downtown and the popular Mishawaka Riverwalk.

The site has special meaning to me and my family. My great-grandfather started his business on the site in 1932 and was a prominent part of the block for next 25 years. Over time, the block included a number of notable landmarks like the North Side Theater, Joey’s Restaurant, several apartment and residential buildings and municipal parking. The block, however, is probably best known as the site of the former Pleasureland Museum.

Mishawaka envisioned something greater for the downtown and the riverfront area and the Redevelopment Commission worked to assemble the land for future development opportunities. A downturn in the economy and several starts and stops on other downtown projects left people wondering about whether the site could ever reach its full potential.

A private sector developer teamed up with the city and took great risk to make the project happen. That developer may have been the only one who thought the concept could become a reality. Fast forward and you have a finished project with 63 percent of the units occupied and the developer looking at other downtown opportunities.

Elsewhere, construction should begin early in 2017 on several other downtown Mishawaka housing projects, including the River Walk Apartments, River Front Forge Condominiums (33 units), and the Mill at Ironworks Plaza (230 units). Add to those construction at Grandview (200 units), Fir Road North (400 units) and Fir Road South (516 units), and Mishawaka is going through a mini high-density housing boom.

But that tells only part of the story. South Bend has a housing boom of its own underway. Recently, the former Hoffman Hotel (48 units) and the Colfax & Hill Development (17 units) have opened. In the midst of construction is the renovation of The LaSalle (67 units), the JMS Building (52 units) and the former Chase Tower (83 units). On the drawing board are the East Bank Flats (12 units), the Wharf site Project (24 units), River Race Flats (32 units), the Commerce Center (250 units), the former Madison Center (55 units) and Berlin Flats (120 units). Another 90 residential units are planned on the former Transpo site, just east of downtown.

Projects like those above, especially in the downtown areas, are complicated. They take a significant amount of time to develop and require the right public-private partnership to make them a success. Developers could reap great rewards or could experience significant losses. These developers feel the great momentum happening in South Bend and Mishawaka and hope the timing of these developments helps them capitalize. Constructions workers should remain busy in the foreseeable future.

The high-density housing boom in the urban core is a result of efforts to attract and retain young people and give them more urban options for living. Their efforts are critical to the efforts to grow population in our area as each contributes to our area having attractive places for people to work, live and play.

New construction in South Bend and Mishawaka has both communities positioned to capitalize on new people discovering our region. How can you help? Have a former classmate, son or daughter, family member or friend not living in the area, make sure they know about the great new opportunities that await them here in our region.

Source: South Bend Tribune

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