NEW CARLISLE — St. Joseph County leaders have worked for years, and spent millions of dollars, on plans to attract businesses to an area near New Carlisle that is dominated by rich farmland.
In fact, they now say they have four businesses eager to set up shop in the county’s northwest corner, where thousands of acres of land are undeveloped.
These would not be small operations: Three of them need 500 to 1,000 acres of property, and the other needs 250 to 500 acres, according to Bill Schalliol, the county’s economic development director, who would not identify the companies. At stake, according to him and other county leaders: hundreds of jobs.
But a ditch is in the way.
The Niespodziany Ditch passes through land to the east of New Carlisle, where the county is planning a massive industrial park called the Indiana Enterprise Center. The ditch serves as a drain for several farms and businesses in the area, and it connects to the Kankakee River to the south.
A 2.5-mile portion of the ditch passes through land targeted by interested businesses, and it would need to be relocated to the west to free up 2,000 acres for them.
The county now is racing to purchase several properties that the new ditch would cross through.
“They’ve got to have the assurance that the ditch is going to move,” Schalliol said of businesses interested in the area, adding that the goal is to get the project done by the end of this year.
But several farmers in the area, including Randy Matthys, have raised concerns.