As our city leaders describe Noblesville’s progress in the last decade or so as growing from “cornfields to corporations,” I start to wonder about the hundreds of untapped acres in our Corporate Campus that extends along 146th Street from Interstate 69 and Indiana 37.
Planned as a 3,600-acre Corporate Campus with zoning for mostly industrial, retail, commercial and some residential, the city made capital investments in this project with a goal to bolster tax-generating revenue for city services. While a handful of advanced-manufacturing industries, like SMC, Helmer Scientific and Verdure Sciences, have moved in, the area remains mostly devoted to retail.
The Hamilton Town Center, which opened about a decade ago, has definitely been a boon in retail for our city, attracting multiple restaurants, other shopping outlets and hotels to the area. Even destination-shopping like Cabela’s and Duluth Trading Co. help to put Noblesville on the map. But these types of businesses are not enough to generate the kind of tax revenue needed for the Corporate Campus to pay for itself.
The numbers are clear when you compare the per capita income for Noblesville with Carmel, Fishers and Hamilton County as a whole. In Noblesville, the per capita income is $34,910 for a population of nearly 62,000 residents with the median household income at $74,681, according to 2017 U.S. Census estimates.
Compare that to Carmel’s $55,796 per capita income and $109,201 median household income, or Fishers’ $46,619 per capita income and $101,469 median household income, and it’s clear Noblesville still lags behind. Granted, both Carmel and Fishers each have 30,000 more residents than Noblesville, but even our city’s median household income is more than $20,000 lower than the county’s median ($95,080). I believe a lack of business opportunities and jobs that pay higher wages are to blame.
I believe in true free enterprise with little government incentives and intervention. I question the need to provide huge tax incentives for private businesses that are not part of the city’s functions or services. For instance, why did the city need to hand out $6 million in tax incentives to build the Embassy Suites at I-69? Biases can occur when municipalities invest in private sector business, and existing businesses find it harder to compete in an unfair marketplace.
Much of the Corporate Campus was designed as an industrial complex to locate manufacturing businesses with high-paying jobs. The low-paying retail jobs currently offered in the area create less tax revenue for city services, which is one reason the city now collects a nearly $11 per-month trash fee.
Noblesville needs to focus on bringing more manufacturing plants to the Corporate Campus to provide more steady revenue for the city and its workforce. With much of the campus development occurring at I-69 or near Ind. 37, acres of vacant property remain in the middle along 146th Street as well as hundreds of acres on the far eastside.
City leaders talk about developing village centers with office space in some of these areas, but we hear little about any effort to attract larger industries to Noblesville. The city’s approach seems to be reactive, instead of proactive. We wait for industries to approach us, instead of getting out there and selling ourselves as a viable option.
Noblesville needs more automation, tech, information system, manufacturing and research and development jobs. When Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb travels to Europe, Asia and other countries to attract industries for Indiana, Noblesville needs to be part of that formula. We need to better market the benefits of the Corporate Campus and its proximity to a strong workforce.
As your At-Large Councilman on the Noblesville City Council, I want to expand the city’s tax base by attracting more international companies to relocate in our great city. We can entice more businesses to relocate here without giving away free tax breaks.
Rocky Shanehsaz is a Republican candidate for the Noblesville Common Council At-Large seat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.