Bluffton adding speculative industrial space

April 8th, 2019

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Bluffton is providing tax increment financing for an $8 million industrial real estate investment it considers important to economic development there.

MidLand LLC plans to double the size of the Parlor City Warehouse in Bluffton to 400,000 square feet to provide more speculative space for industrial employers who might need it.

The facility MidLand built for that purpose in 2014 as a joint project with Bluffton and the Wells County Commissioners has become fully occupied and the company believes expanding it will help prepare the city for further employment growth.

“The building inventory in Wells County is extremely low,” Wells County Economic Development Director Chad Kline said in an email.

“We have some small older buildings available and one large building that is approximately 86,000 square feet. This building provides a brand-new space with high ceilings, high energy efficiency, and with quick access to Interstate 69 from State Road 124,” he said.

“This space will ... facilitate a variety of manufacturing operations or provide ample space for logistical needs.”

A number of projects in recent years have shown Wells County capable of attracting and retaining industrial employment from beyond its borders.

For example, 20/20 Custom Molded Plastics announced in 2017 it would invest more than $27 million to buy, equip and expand the 170,000-square-foot Buckhorn facility, creating up to 155 jobs at 785 Decker Drive in Bluffton.

Then last year, the Holiday City, Ohio-based custom structural form molding manufacturer said it would need more space in Bluffton, bringing the size of the expansion to 240,000 square feet, the investment to more than $41 million and the projected job creation up to 200.

To support the Parlor City Warehouse project, the Bluffton Redevelopment Commission has approved the first step of a bonding mechanism through an Adams Street tax increment financing district in the city.

“The company will obtain their own bond with the city committing repayment of property taxes collected solely from the expanded portion of the building as a payment to their bond,” Kline said.

The TIF repayment on the bond covering real estate improvements and building construction for the facility on Bluffton’s west side will come close to $840,000.

In addition to accommodating growth of businesses already operating in Bluffton, the additional industrial space could help attract employment from outside the city.

“We wanted to build something that creates an attractive place for current businesses to expand and for new businesses to call home,” Rob Troxel, MidLand’s owner, said in a statement on the project.

“With the sizable amount of space Parlor City Warehouse provides, more opportunities are opened up for the people and local businesses within the county.”

Many industrial employers have been delaying expansion decisions in the current economic climate. But, once companies decide to expand their operations, communities offering buildings they can put to use quickly tend to rank higher in their site selection process, the statement said.

“Our family has been in the commercial real estate business in Wells County for over 25 years,” Troxel said. “One of our main goals with both Westland Warehouse and now Parlor City Warehouse is to provide a commercial rental opportunity that will put Wells County on the map.”

The project’s construction was scheduled to start this month and be completed late in the fall. New space provided through the expansion will be marketed aggressively through a joint effort of MidLand and Wells County Economic Development.

“A specific marketing plan has not yet been developed; however, the site is already being submitted for project leads that are received through our organization,” Kline said.

“Wells County will continue to be able to attract new business and opportunities thanks to the continued investment by MidLand LLC in the Bluffton community,” he said in a statement on the project.

“With more businesses seeking available buildings to locate their business, it gives Wells County increased opportunity to attract new investment and jobs. The support of the Bluffton Common Council for projects like this continues to position Wells County as a great place to start and grow your business.”

Bluffton-based Briner Building has been contracted to help with the Parlor City Warehouse expansion.