TELL CITY – A 10,000-square-foot facility proposed by the executive director of the Perry County Development Corp. would help attract residents back after they complete college and serve as an “incubation center” for start-up businesses.
Chris Kinnett asked the county commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday to endorse the proposal as an application for funding is submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. Placing artist renderings before the county leaders, he said the PCDC has been working for three years “trying to figure out what we can do to help diversify our economy, how we can bring new people into the area, retain those people and find a location for (them) to be able to start a business. We now have an opportunity, I believe, to go before the United States Economic Development Administration and apply for a grant.”
In addition, a company has expressed interest in anchoring the facility to help pay its long-term costs so it wouldn’t be a financial burden on the PCDC or county, he added. He said Friday he was not at liberty to identify the company, but its use of the building would facilitate a growth opportunity for it.
To be called the Innovation Center of Perry County, the building would be constructed on the northeast side of the intersection of Indiana 37 and Indiana 237 on land owned by the Perry County Memorial Hospital. Kinnett said that facility’s board of directors was to be presented information in the near future.
Half of the Innovation Center would be leased by a tenant, he told the commissioners, “and the other half would be used as an incubator.”
It would contain a basement that could be used for various functions, he continued, and “we’re still working with Universal Design to determine what that functionality should actually be. We feel there will probably be room for a large conference center that would help with our current employee base.”
It could also include a video-conferencing capability, which is currently not available on an “all-encompassing” basis in the Perry County area, he said.
The facility could serve surrounding communities, as well.
“We see this as a regional opportunity,” Kinnett said. “It could be somewhat of a technology park” and would be sited along a fiber-optic line, so computer services would be available.
The development corporation is working to partner with everyone who could benefit from the facility, and hoped the commissioners would endorse the project “as we go to the EDA, No. 1, and we’d like you to consider that there will be some funding opportunity” for the project. “It may be a long shot that we even get the grant,” he said, “but if you don’t try, you don’t know.”
The “anchor” business wants to add garage space at the back of the building that would be shielded, so it would not be visible from the front or back, “so there will be some additional investment beyond what we’re looking at for the incubator.”
That business would lease half the building and would provide a receptionist who would be available to others renting space.
The PCDC hopes to attract students who have gone to college back into the area with opportunities such as animatronics, other computer-science work or third-party logistics, areas of work that could be performed here for companies elsewhere.
“Very rough” estimates based on similar facilities would put the cost at $4 million, Kinnett said. He told the commissioners he hoped to obtain the majority of funding from the federal agency, and asked them to consider contributing some of the money the county has earmarked for infrastructure development.
“I think it’s a great project, (and) a great location,” Commissioner Jody Fortwendel said. “It couldn’t be any better. A lot of infrastructure is already there.”
Kinnett agreed, noting it’s close to Perry County Industrial Park South, that water and sewer lines are in place and an energy substation is located behind ATTC.
Saying again he was tossing out a rough estimate, Kinnett put the county’s contribution at $200,000 to $250,000.
“We don’t want to deplete anything,” he said. “we just want to show that there is interest.” For the moment, he was seeking a letter of support, and said “we would not accept the funds until such time as we actually receive the grant. If we don’t receive the grant, we’re not taking the funds.”
Commissioner Tom Hauser asked if Kinnett wanted a commitment the county would provide the funds.
“Today we’re looking for support with your acquiescence that you’ll consider a commitment once we turn the application in.”
The deadline for the current funding cycle is March 9, he added, “but there’s no guarantee we’ll even be considered (during it). We don’t want to get hopes up. We just want to make sure we get as much as we can in line as best we can.”
The commissioners opted not to act on the request until their March 5 meeting.
“It’ll be a very positive thing for the county,” Fortwendel said.