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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 16, 2017 1:00 am

New possibilities

New Haven's news good for city, region

On a roll

 New Haven has been an economic development success story in recent months:

• A $40 million investment by Multimatic Inc. The Toronto-based company is taking over the former Vera Bradley plant on Adams Center Road and creating up to 180 jobs at what will be its second location in northeast Indiana.

• A $19 million investment by Elkhart-based Lippert Components Manufacturing on Ryan Road, creating 140 production jobs by the end of 2019.

• A $13 million equipment investment by Superior Aluminum Alloys. Twelve jobs in production and maintenance will be created with the Edgerton Road plant expansion. 

• A $12 million investment by Continental Diamond Tool, which plans to build a new manufacturing plant at the former Parker-Hannifin property on Rose Avenue and more than double its workforce by adding 77 jobs. 

• Sauder Manufacturing Co., which will invest $3 million in consolidating its five Grabill locations at the Parker-Hannifin site and add up to 60 jobs by 2021.

• Quincy Recycle Paper, where two sales jobs will be added as the company invests $715,000 in new equipment.

City of New Haven? Make it the city of New Jobs – the community is on an economic development roll.

In the past three months alone, officials have shared news of an impressive $88 million in investment, with the creation of about 470 new jobs, and many more positions retained.

“We've had some good reports, haven't we?” said Mayor Terry McDonald, “I can't point to one thing that's responsible, but we've been working really hard to position the community so that both established business and those looking know we are open for business and we want them to locate here.”

Brian Yoh, director of planning and economic development for New Haven, attributes the success to efforts on both the economic development and urban planning sides. He said he had a gut-check moment in 1997 when a site selector told him he was not being honest in boasting of community assets and pride.

“He said, 'You talk about all of these great things, but your downtown looks like a community that doesn't care,' ” Yoh said. “He was right. Broadway looked like an old worn-out pair of tennis shoes. I knew then that planning wasn't a wish – it's an actual need.”

After the city's investments in infrastructure, in Jury Pool, walking paths and more, a conversation with another site selector yielded a different response. He said the selector's company was considering consolidating in another Indiana community, but New Haven employees told the company official they “didn't want to lose Jury Pool, the community center, Schnelker Park, movies in the park.”

“He told me, 'I took note – if I have employees who are happy where they live, they are good employees,' ” Yoh said of the site selector, who chose New Haven for the company's investment.

Yoh said the state's investment in Fort to Port – a safer, four-lane upgrade of U.S. 24 – also is paying off.

Another component is the emphasis on regional cooperation, he said, praising the efforts of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

“It used to be everybody had their own kingdom,” Yoh said. “There were some levels of cooperation, but we drew the lines at the county line. But citizens don't necessarily win when we fight with our neighbors.”

Which explains why New Haven's recent successes are good news not just for the immediate community, but for all of Allen County and northeast Indiana. The economic effect isn't contained within one area – it extends far beyond New Haven's borders, with suppliers to the new and expanded businesses; with state and local tax revenue; with employee purchasing power and more.

The mayor notes that a less-heralded accomplishment is economic progress in downtown New Haven, which boasts a growing number of retail and financial businesses, including furniture and design stores, boutiques and a make-and-take art studio.

Yoh said he expects the pace of major economic development announcements to slow, partly because of a lack of industrial sites. The Casad Depot, a World War II-era federal munitions storage site with railroad access, is a prime prospect, but its sale must be approved by the General Services Administration before New Haven can annex it and develop an industrial park there. Sens. Todd Young and Joe Donnelly and Rep. Jim Banks all have been helpful in pushing the federal government to release the depot, he said.

When it happens, the city clearly will have the right elements in place to attract additional investment and jobs.