Lake County has a secret, and Karen Lauerman is doing her best to make sure everybody knows what it is.

“With a focus on economic development opportunities, proximity to Chicago, access to supply chain/consumer markets, Indiana’s pro-business climate plus an attractive, affordable, quality lifestyle, Lake County is Chicagoland’s best kept secret,” Lauerman, president and CEO of the Lake County Economic Alliance, said.

Apparently Lauerman and the LCEA are doing a good job of being bad at keeping a secret.

“During a time of tremendous uncertainty, Lake County continues to secure positive economic momentum as businesses across the U.S. and around the world leverage Indiana’s pro-growth attitude and proximity to major markets to fuel success,” she said.

Letting developers in on the Region’s little secret is a full-time job for the LCEA, which represents all communities in the county in addition to the county commissioners. It participated in a regional application that brought $50 million in state funding for projects with a regional impact.

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The LCEA also hosted international site selectors all over the county and held about 30 trade shows, conferences and other promotional efforts.

“It’s not just about land and buildings, companies and consultants,” Lauerman said. “It’s about relationships, trust and furthering a collaborative countywide effort. Community borders are not important to Lake County economic development any more. It’s about communities together as one county positioned for prosperity, and that is truly a measure of progress and our collective success.”

A big part of the LCEA success is having buildings ready for companies looking for just the right location to move into. Lauerman said Lake County had two speculative buildings — built with no specific tenant in mind — begin construction in recent months that were just waiting for the right customer to come along.

The first was a venture by the Des Plaines, Illinois-based The Missner Group, which Lauerman said “believes the time is right for repurposing former industrial sites in Lake County’s north sector.” The company broke ground in October on a 14.4-acre site for a 249,600-square-foot spec building at 4400 Homerlee in East Chicago. The site is less than a mile from Interstate 90, close to the Interstate 80/94 expressway and adjacent to the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad/CSX lines. Nearing exterior completion, the building is the first new concrete panel tilt up building in East Chicago for the modern era, she said.

The second project is a 261,638-square-foot spec building by Crow Holdings Industrial, which recently broke ground in Merrillville at 9602 Georgia St. in the AmeriPlex at the Crossroads Business Park in Lake County’s central sector. Expected to be ready this spring, it follows the success of Crow’s first building, which was fully leased in June 2021 with Midwest Truck and Auto, Quality Pasta and Turbonetics.

“The big brand names of Amazon and Domino’s landed at the class A-AmeriPlex at the Crossroads business park in Merrillville,” Lauerman said. “Amazon opened in the summer of 2021 after investing $30 million for its roughly 300-plus employees and building a delivery station operation to occupy approximately 190,000 square feet of space.

“In September, Domino’s broke ground on a 112,000-square-foot dough production and distribution hub, investing approximately $50.3 million to serve the Midwest operators.”

Investment by foreign companies showed a significant increase in 2021, Lauerman said, with two international companies locating in Hobart.

“The United Kingdom-based cosmetics manufacturer Orean Personal Care is relocating and expanding its U.S. footprint from Illinois to Northwind Crossings at I-65 and 61st Avenue at the former Americall location. Orean is investing $4 Million to accommodate higher customer demand and strategic growth.”

“The second is Allmyfy, the Italian organic cosmetics company, which is launching its first operation in the US,” Lauerman said. “Allmyfy is renovating a former retail/marine shop and is set to hire 50-70 as they process, package and distribute private and influence brands.”

Other developments offering proof the secret is out include:

  • the launch of Point 65 in Crown Point
  • the build-to-suit development at the former Ultra grocery store in Highland
  • the proposal to convert the former Illiana Raceway in Schererville into a business park
  • the continued remediation and development of the former 284-acre DuPont/Chemours site, now known as the East Chicago Logistics Center
  • a new office building already under construction at Oxbow Landing in Hammond.

Lauerman said these projects are “proof developers understand Lake County is a desireable, cost-effective location” and she added that “development is key to attracting companies not just from across the border but around the globe.”

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