The following was written for Hoosier Energy and appeared in the May 2016 issue of Business Facilities. Recreated here with permission.
I-69 KEEPS ROLLING ALONG IN SOUTHERN INDIANA
Interstate 69 runs north-south through the Midwest United States. Sometimes called the NAFTA Superhighway, the interstate starts at Port Huron, Michigan and is envisioned to run south into Texas with the goal of being the primary economic north/south route in the United States.
Indiana completed the 156-mile northern route of I-69 in 1971. Since its groundbreaking in 2007, construction along the southern sections of I-69 has rolled along steadily. The route was divided into six sections of construction starting with Section 1 near Evansville and proceeding north until Section 6 connects to I-465 in Indianapolis. Four sections are now open to travelers. Currently, I-69 connects to State Route 37, so businesses have four-lane access to downtown Indianapolis and beyond. Section 5, currently under construction, goes to the edge of Martinsville and upgrades the route to interstate standards. Section 5 is scheduled to be finished by June 2017. Section 6 will join with I-465 in the years to follow. But as I-69 construction rolls along, Southern Indiana and the communities that stand to most benefit are investing in their infrastructure with the assistance of Hoosier Energy’s member electric cooperatives to take full advantage of these future logistics opportunities.
Location advantage: The completed southern expansion will span 114 miles from Evansville and I-64 to Indianapolis and Interstates 65, 70 and 74. Southern Indiana offers commuters easy access to two international airports, which house the major hubs of two air package delivery services: FEDEX in Indianapolis and UPS in Louisville. In addition to the air transportation advantages, 65 percent of the United States is within a one-day drive of the I-69 corridor.
Defining ideal logistics: Tim Feemster, the managing principal of Foremost Quality Logistics with over 40 years of experience as a business site advisor, explained what he looks for when considering sites for logistics companies: “My rule is ‘five to 55’— trucks should be going 55 miles an hour within five minutes of departing.” Other important factors include an abundance of certifiable “shovel ready” sites and an infrastructure with a low risk of power interruptions. The numerous interchanges tying into the I-69 project in southern Indiana open up a variety of new opportunities to hit “five to 55.”
I-69 is a couple of years from direct freeway access from Evansville to Indianapolis. However, Feemster points out, “if a company invested in a brand-new site today, allowing for 18 months of construction, the freeway will be close to completion by the time they open.”
Washington, IN invests in infrastructure: Jeff Quyle, President & Chief Operating Officer of Radius Indiana, observed that the opening of I-69 has helped many businesses near Washington, Indiana. “Grain Processing Corporation (GPC), a processing plant of ethanol-based alcoholic beverages just outside of Washington, is located a short drive from I-69. The freeway provides a benefit to GPC, both for receiving raw materials and for shipping finished product. The interstate also comes to the front door of Naval Support Activity Crane, a weapons production and development facility with over 5,500 employees.”
Westgate, a new technology park adjacent to Crane, is developing several new commercial business sites. “Both Westgate and Washington are taking advantage of the opportunity that I-69 offers. They are investing in a quality industrial, commercial and retail development on several hundred acres of land right off the interstate, with rail access and a shell building already under construction.” Thanks in part to infrastructure investments by Hoosier Energy, these sites will come pre-wired and power-ready. And the local electric distribution cooperative has offered zero-interest loans to assist in upgrading infrastructure.
Bloomington plans for growth: Bloomington is the site of Indiana University’s main campus and several local medical, life sciences and technology companies that ship their goods primarily by truck. “Since I-69 opened, the local workforce has a dramatically faster and safer commute,” said Lynn Coyne, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation. “Once Section 5 is completed, Indianapolis will have easy access to Bloomington, which will enhance the educational opportunities for students and visitors.” Coyne credits Hoosier Energy for proactively preparing shovel ready sites and for marketing those sites.
“It’s still early,” said Anne Bono, Executive Director of Hoosier Voices for I-69, “but the potential is clear. When I-69 is complete, trucks will drive from Indianapolis to Bloomington in 38 minutes (about half the time of the current commute).”
Petersburg Invests in the Future: Fifty million people live within a 500-mile radius around Petersburg in Pike County, including Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Detroit—significant markets that I-69 will bring closer. “We are developing a mega-site of 8,000 acres, starting with 340 acres about a mile from the interchange and are working to get those sites shovel ready,” said Ashley Willis, Executive Director of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation. “We’re positioning ourselves to be an attractive location for agribusiness, logistics and manufacturing industries. We’re investing to be a significant competitor in the future. Utility partners like Hoosier Energy are helping Petersburg take steps so that its available sites have water and electrical infrastructure to support the demand.”
As I-69 rolls along, Hoosier Energy and its partner rural electric cooperatives will help their business communities develop sites that best take advantage of the economic opportunities of tomorrow.