2018 News & Announcements

Story written by Caleb Bauer with the South Bend Tribune Article published on April 20, 2018

Gov. Holcomb nominates 7 sites in St. Joseph County as "Opportunity Zones"

SOUTH BEND — A new tool created by federal tax reform legislation is intended to help spur private spending in high-poverty areas called “opportunity zones.” On Thursday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb submitted a nomination to the U.S. Department of Treasury that would classify 156 census tracts in the state as opportunity zones, including areas on South Bend’s south, southwest and east sides, parts of the Ardmore Neighborhood, central Mishawaka, three areas in Elkhart and downtown Goshen.

In a news release, Holcomb said the new zones will provide “one more tool to attract investment and help more of our Hoosier communities succeed.” By classifying areas as opportunity zones, property sellers within the tracts will be able to defer capital gains taxes if money is reinvested in a “qualified opportunity fund” inside the census tract and can receive other preferential tax treatment as an incentive for doing business in a low-income area. The approval of the state’s zones still has to be finalized by the Department of Treasury, but local economic development officials expect the zones could play a role in bringing additional investment in the area. “The idea of these opportunity zones, it’s kind of an obscure provision of the tax reform bill,” said James Mueller, South Bend director of community investment. “We’re trying to get more investment into census tracts that aren’t doing as well as other census tracts.”

Mueller said the currently low real estate prices in the area would potentially mean that the benefit from capital gains deferments could be seen more in the sectors of investment in startups and small businesses. “I wouldn’t say this is the silver bullet to getting a greater share of capital distributed around the country,” Mueller said, “but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.” The selection for the tracts in the South Bend-Elkhart region was conducted via collaboration between different organizations and units of government, said Regina Emberton, director of the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership. She compared the possible impact of the tax deferments to the state’s Regional Cities plan, which provided money for economic development projects throughout the region.

Still in its early phases, Emberton said it will take time for developers and other investors to learn about the opportunity zones and implement them into their plans. Ken Prince, city planner for Mishawaka, said the city’s downtown was nominated as one of the new opportunity zones, but a second suggestion didn’t make the cut on the governor’s list. “The other was the industrial area where Lippert and Siemens is located,” Prince said. “I think it’s one of these unknowns. We’re not sure if it’s going to be the greatest thing ever or if it will do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.”

Story written by Caleb Bauer with the South Bend Tribune Article published on April 6, 2018

SF Motors unveils electric vehicles to be made in Mishawaka

On a stage in the heart of Silicon Valley on Wednesday night, a business rolled out a product with major implications for manufacturing in the South Bend Region. SF Motors, the company that in November purchased the former AM General Commercial assembly plant in Mishawaka, unveiled a pair of electric vehicles that will be produced there. Challenging electric vehicle giant Tesla, SF Motors hopes to develop vehicles with high performance and integrated technology that can aid and sometimes even take over driving responsibilities.

During Wednesday's unveiling in Santa Clara, Calif., SF Motors CEO John Zhang said that his interest in electric vehicles was piqued when he experienced the acceleration that electric power can provide. “I remember the acceleration when I first drove an electric car,” Zhang said, “I was hooked.” The 2-year-old electric vehicle company, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, plans to build a pair of electric crossover SUVs called the SF5 and SF7. While the company’s headquarters are in Silicon Valley, its two production facilities will be in Mishawaka and Chongqing, China. Zhang praised the “engineering and manufacturing expertise” in the Midwest, citing its importance in the company’s future success.

According to Jim Finn, chief production officer for the company, production at both facilities will begin later this year, with plans to reach production of 200,000 vehicles per year. Both plants will handle the full production line for the vehicles, from body welding to battery production to final assembly, Finn said. SF Motors’ website said the Mishawaka plant will have as assembly capacity of 50,000 cars annually. The Mishawaka plant will also feature advanced automation, including a fully automated body shop and quality control. Still, the company plans to employ around 3,500 workers worldwide. Todd Leahy, formerly the general assembly manager for AM General, will manage the Mishawaka plant. The SF5, the company’s mid-market crossover, will be sold on preorder later this year and on the road by 2019. Jason Wallace, brand director for SF Motors, said that he couldn’t give a specific price for the vehicle, but said it's “expected to be in the $50,000 range.”

Story written by Ted Booker with the South Bend Tribune Article published on Feb 1, 2018

Power plant in New Carlisle area aims for March opening

After more than two years of construction, the $500 million natural gas power plant in this area is set to start operating by the end of March — several months ahead of schedule. But while the St. Joseph Energy Center, located east of New Carlisle in Olive Township, will create 21 full-time jobs and has been praised by St. Joseph County officials for generating property taxes, a proposed second phase for the project remains in limbo. That phase would double the size of the plant on the 165-acre site near the intersection of Edison and Walnut roads and calls for an additional $500 million investment in the plant, which is owned by the Toyota Group and Ares Private Equity Group. The plan would also double the plant’s electricity output to reach 1,400 megawatts, adding two natural gas-fired turbines to the existing pair. It would also add 20 more jobs.

Efforts to plan phase two, however, are taking much longer than project officials had hoped because energy regulators require electricity generated for that phase to be routed to a substation in eastern LaPorte County, rather than allowing it to flow to the substation used for phase one at the plant’s site. The substation in LaPorte County serves a different Midwest power market. Phase two calls for building a 10-mile-long power line that would run west from New Carlisle, cross into LaPorte County and then go south to reach the substation in Stillwell, which is run by the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. For more than two years, project officials have tried to acquire land rights from farmers and other landowners to build the line, which would mainly follow the path of existing utility lines. But that task still isn’t done and has proven to be a challenge.

Some farmers have vehemently opposed the plan, forcing officials to work around their property. Others have signed agreements to sell easement rights for the line. By signing option-to-buy agreements, they could get lump-sum payments of tens of thousands of dollars if the line is built. Lou Pierce, spokesman for the St. Joseph Energy Center, declined to say if the plan for the power line has hit any snags or has been delayed because of farmers who might be trying to negotiate better deals. “There are multiple ways to get from point A to point B, and some are more expensive than others,” he said. “I’ll just leave it at that.” Bill Schalliol, St. Joseph County’s economic development director, said project officials are “down to just a handful” of properties that they still need to acquire land rights from to build the line. Once secured, he said, officials would seek to have the site plan for the second phase approved by the county. He thinks the county will be approached about the project later this year.

The County Council approved a 15-year, $60 million tax abatement for the first phase, and project officials are expected to ask for a similar tax break for phase two. The county has estimated the current project will generate $43 million in property taxes over its 30-year life span. Those taxes will benefit the New Carlisle area tax increment financing district, supporting other projects in the immediate industrial area that is being developed by the county. “Having that additional revenue coming in will certainly be a huge boost to move forward many other projects we’re looking to do in that area,” Schalliol said.

Story written by Caleb Bauer with the South Bend Tribune Article published on Jan 19, 2018

South Bend Airport Adds Service to Charlotte and Dallas/Ft. Worth

SOUTH BEND — This summer South Bend International Airport will add a fourth airline and provide twice daily direct flights to Charlotte, N.C. and Dallas. Local and airport officials were joined Thursday by Gov. Eric Holcomb to announce that American Airlines service direct from South Bend to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will begin June 7. Both destinations will have flights twice daily to and from South Bend International. Charlotte Douglas International Airport pre-empted Thursday’s announcement with a morning tweet stating the new flight route. Currently, the airport provides non-stop flights to 10 American cities through Allegiant, Delta and United airlines. The addition of American and its two new cities is expected to generate $20 million a year in revenue for the local economy, according to South Bend Regional Chamber CEO Jeff Rea.

In order to attract the Dallas/Fort Worth routes, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the St. Joseph County Airport Authority pledged $750,000 each to American Airlines, to be paid out over the span of two years. “The coin of the realm is connectivity,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “This (addition) is positioning us to compete in the years ahead.” Holcomb said the new routes are part of the state’s push to stir economic growth and attract and retain talent. “Today is one of those that truly does remind us that not even the sky is the limit,” Holcomb said. The new routes will create 93,000 new seats in flights from South Bend.

According to Thursday's announcement, flights will depart daily from South Bend to Dallas/Fort Worth at 7 a.m. and 2:09 p.m. and return at 4:13 and 9:53 p.m. Flights to Charlotte will leave South Bend daily at 8:30 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. returning at 1:25 and 9:40 p.m. The flights will be operated by American Eagle using CRJ-700 regional jet aircraft with dual-class cabins and 64 seats. Tickets can be purchased staring Jan. 22 at www.aa.com.

Other non-stop flight destinations currently offered out of South Bend include Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Fla.; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; New York City/Newark; Orlando/Sanford, Fla., Phoenix/Mesa; and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Fla.