JEFFERSONVILLE — The River Ridge Development Authority has crossed a major milestone for the business park and the continued economic growth of the community by fulfilling the terms of a lease agreement with the U.S. Army — 35 years earlier than expected.
At a ceremony Wednesday, River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA) board members, state and local elected officials and other stakeholders celebrated the 15 years of growth and set fire to a copy of the 2003 lease, a moment executive director Jerry Acy said is a testament to the hard work and collaboration of community entities since the business park's inception.
"It's a matter of really good planning on the part of the previous administration and getting the ball rolling," he said. "It's been a great burden lifted, a milestone."
Acy credits some major steps in the region as well as good leadership to being able to end the lease early — like the addition of Amazon to River Ridge in 2012 and the completion of the Lewis and Clark bridge in 2015.
Local leaders attending the ceremony included Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall, Utica board members Hank Dorman and Steve Long, Clark County Commissioners President Jack Coffman, Clark County Council member Kevin Vissing, and Indiana State Reps. Ron Grooms and Steve Stemler.
Stemler said the most recent milestone shows what can be done when a community unites.
"I think what it shows is that when you collaborate and pull all in the same direction what you can accomplish in a short period of time," Stemler, who served on the RRDA board from 2000 to 2005, said.
"Here it is, here we are," Dorman, the Utica board member, added. "And who would have thought it would progress this fast?"
The last parcel of Army-owned land, formerly the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, was transferred to the RRDA in 2016. Late last year, the authority completed reconciling the revenue from the property and finished paying debt on the land. As of August, the lease was officially terminated and all liens released.
"This is a lot like paying your mortgage off 35 years early," Acy said in a news release. "This is a testament to the hard work and major investments we've made in a relatively short period of time to redevelop this land into a world class business park."
River Ridge currently houses about 60 businesses — including Amazon, Bose, Enjoy Life Foods and Shoe Sensation — that employ more than 9,000 workers, the release stated.
A 2017 economic impact study shows that the park supports more than 27,000 jobs regionally, generates more than $27 million in state taxes and more than $5 million in local taxes annually. It has contributed $2 billion in economic impact to the region.
About one-fifth of the 6,000-acre park has been developed; the remaining 4,800 acres is estimated to take around 15 to 20 years to complete, and call for a $370 million investment for demolition and added infrastructure.