Site developer and landlord-to-be Jim Karp won't say how much he'd committed to the 150,000 square-feet shell going up at the end of Salem Road in the River Ridge development, before auto supplier Tenneco bought into it.
“It would make me look pretty stupid if I did that,” Karp said Wednesday. “But you almost have to have the building before you have the tenant.”
“The package had a number of attractive elements,” said Mike Alzamora, Tenneco's senior manager for global communications. “The location was chosen due to the proximity to our customers.”
Specifically, to Ford assembly plants in Louisville and to Ford and General Motors facilities throughout the Midwest and Midsouth, Alzamora continued. The River Ridge facility will become Tenneco's fourth in Indiana. Jeffersonville's will manufacture catalytic converts and other air-quality systems for cars and trucks.
Employment applications are available online at indianacareerconnect.com. Tenneco is seeking workers with welding skills and engineering background, Alzamora said. Indiana has committed money and resources for specific training. Such job postings are the first acknowledgment that Tenneco had committed to locating in River Ridge.
Tenneco isn't allowing cameras inside the factory shell but plans call for beginning production in January 2015, with 40 to 50 workers. The company has committed to a workforce of 250 by late 2017, Alzamora said.
“We don't anticipate any impact from the construction that's going on in the area with the bridges and the roads,” he added.
In other words, the goods will get to market, regardless. But the East End Bridge will make a difference, especially after Salem Road is extended to create the four-lane heavy haul connector from River Ridge.
“We're not selling rainbows and unicorns anymore,” said Wendy Dant Chesser, the president and chief executive officer of the economic development agency One Southern Indiana. “We're selling a real project. Real connectivity and real infrastructure that these companies need and want.”
Dant Chesser won't offer specifics as to when she might announce another big get for River Ridge. But Karp concedes he wouldn't be putting up a 250,000 square-feet shell behind Tenneco, or the soybean field across the road without solid leads.
“The total project when we get done will be, depending on the tenants, anywhere from a million to a million two hundred thousand square feet,” Karp said. “Nobody believes the bridges will be there until they're finished. Once it's finished, it'll be magic.”
Therein lies the challenge: how many developers, or companies, are waiting until the bridge and roads are further along before committing?
Playing their cards close doesn't mean they haven't decided.
The East End Bridge will turn what had been an hour's drive into about a five minute commute.
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