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Investment dollars made perfect sense

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Brian Asher, director of the Shelby County Development Corporation, addresses the crowd in attendance, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, at Monday’s announcement that Greenleaf Foods willbuild a large production facility in Shelbyville.
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Dan Curtin, president of Greenleaf Foods, shows off a cutting board in the shape of the state of Indiana with a star designating the company’s new facility that will be built in Shelbyville. Mayor Tom DeBaun, right, presented the gift to Curtin as Gov. Eric Holcomb watched on during Monday’s announcement in Shelbyville.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

For close to one year, Greenleaf Foods had its sights set on Shelbyville. 

The Illinois-based company’s desire to expand into the heartland of America meant several options were in play. The farmland east of Interstate 74 along State Road 44 was deemed ideal but negotiating land deals in the past were hampered by just over 180 acres of real estate sitting under three separate ownership groups – the church, the City of Shelbyville and Krone, a German farm equipment manufacturer who held 40 prime acres of the land.

The Krone purchase came as the company sought to relocate its corporate headquarters from Memphis, Tennessee, to Shelbyville. But a struggling agricultural market led to the demise of the deal in 2017. Krone still had the land, though.

Through experience, local officials learned that having one owner to negotiate with could facilitate quicker deals. So a plan was hatched to make that happen. On Dec. 7, 2018, a $3.9 million acquisition of the church-owned and Krone-owned land was finalized using city and county funds to create a new 184-acre industrial park put under the control of the Redevelopment Commission. 

While the process of a city-county collaboration went through its machinations, Greenleaf Foods did its due diligence on Shelbyville – and it was all positive.

“When we met with a number of people from Indiana and from Shelbyville, we were incredibly impressed with the people, with the passion, with the love they have for Shelbyville,” said Dan Curtin, president of Greenleaf Foods. He was in Shelbyville Monday to announce his company’s deal to build a 230,000-square-foot facility that will employ 450 people. “That was the first thing that started for us.

“The second thing when we started looking at the crossroads of traveling products back and forth across North America, this is a great hub where everything comes through. Materials in, materials out ... it’s a great location for us to do that. Third, we had to find the right piece of land that we could build a world class large facility and the infrastructure here to help support that was spot on. For us, it became an easy decision as we sorted through the different approaches we needed to do for a long term, sustainable business.”

The facility will be the largest plant-based protein manufacturing facility in North America. Greenleaf Foods currently has production facilities in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington. The need to get up and running in the Midwest to meet the expected demand that is on the horizon was key to Shelbyville’s deal.

“It helped the speed of the deal go through,” admitted Curtin referring to Shelbyville’s uniqueness of controlling land that was shovel ready. “It was one of the attractions. We knew we needed speed to get to market quickly and having the process done easier by working with one (ownership group) helped in the process.”

City and county government officials have been questioned frequently via social media for spending habits. On Monday, a collaborative venture paid great dividends.

“We knew the market. We knew our capabilities,” said Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun after the ground-breaking ceremony was complete. “We knew this was low risk when you weigh it against the potential benefits. The return on investment on this project when you see it come in front of the Finance Committee and Tax Abatement Committee ... the return on investment on this is going to be in four years. With incentives, with abatements, within four years it’s going to be paying close to $1 million.

“So, yeah, we can listen to the naysayers and do nothing, sit on our hands and continue to collect $1,800 a year (on the farmland), or, we can take what we call a ‘measured risk’ and assemble the best of the best and come up with this and make millions and provide opportunities for 450 people to get jobs paying over $20 an hour average salary and put positive pressure on the labor market here as well that will incentivize all of our local employers to step up their game and everybody wins. Even if they are not directly related to this project, everybody wins.”

On Tuesday morning at City Hall, the Redevelopment Commission convened a special meeting to open the Request For Proposal bid from Greenleaf Foods regarding the property. Greenleaf will purchase 57.26 acres at $26,500 per acre for a total of $1,517,390. That deal is slated to close between May 15 and June 1. In addition, the company has asked for a 10-year option on another 26.38 acres in the industrial park at the same price, adding a potential $699,070 to the deal if the company expands – which is in its business plan.

“It was true teamwork,” said Brian Asher, the director of the Shelby County Development Corporation. “This could not have happened without the city and county coming together. Greenleaf has seen that and it’s one of the reasons they chose Shelby County – and we’re happy to have them.”