CenterPiece Article

Resilient Michigan City, Indiana

a prime spot for international investment as the world economy recovers
By Joseph S. Pete

As real estate agents say, it’s all about location, location, location.
The lakefront city of Michigan City, Indiana, nestled along Lake Michigan’s South Shore between the global metropolis of Chicago and the cradle of the global brand of Notre Dame football in South Bend, has distinguished itself as an ideal location for international investment. Michigan City recently landed its first Opportunity Zone Investment in a loft apartment project near Zorn Brew Works Co. in the historic Elston Grove Historic District. “Michigan City is doing well at drawing national and international investment, especially from Europe and Asia,” said Clarence Hulse, Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, Indiana. “As a community, we’re proud of our diversity and the knowledge that international investors and immigrants brings. We would encourage investors to look at our location. We’re within an hour to Chicago, and a few hours to Indianapolis, Detroit, and all the major cities of the Midwest. Logistically, it’s a great location.”

Since 2012, the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City estimates it has drawn more than $1.5 billion in investment to the city, a local tourist destination that’s known for its beaches, shopping and gaming. It’s a also a manufacturing powerhouse that’s home to many foreign-owned companies like Shell, Sullair-Hitachi, Frech, Chicago Faucets owned by Geberit, KTR Corporation, and Dekker Vacuum, which was acquired earlier this year by the Sweden-based air compressor giant Atlas Copco.

The beachfront city on the Lake Michigan shoreline in LaPorte County, Indiana is home to many air compressor companies like Vanair, Sullivan-Pallatek, and has been attracting foreign investment from Atlas Copco and Sullair a Hitachi Group Company. In 2017, Sullair broke ground in October on a new 80,000-square-foot manufacturing building on its campus in a $30 million project expected to bring at least 33 new jobs and $1.9 million in annual payroll to the city. As part of the expansion, Sullair is pumping $16.2 million into new machinery and equipment to boost its production capacity in Michigan City.

“The Hitachi Group Company’s decision to expand its Michigan City-based subsidiary Sullair continues a long trend of Japanese companies choosing Indiana for growth,” Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger said. “As we work to strengthen Indiana’s global economy, we’re committed to building stronger relationships with longterm investors like the Hitachi Group. We’re proud of our strong partnership with Japan, which now supports nearly 320 business facilities in Indiana.”

Marbach America Inc., a subsidiary of the Germany-based Marbach Group, also found Michigan City to be a great place to grow and prosper. The tool and die maker is investing more than $4.2 million in Michigan City as it moves into 16,000 square feet in the new Haskell Building, one of many new developments the city has attracted in recent years.

“Michigan City is very business-friendly and made the process seamless,” Marbach America Inc. Chief Operating Officer Fernando Pires said. “The tax abatement will allow us to further reduce the overall costs of this project and to demonstrate to our parent company in Germany that Michigan City, Indiana remains a favorable location for manufacturing.”

Turkey-based Mikropor, a leading worldwide provider of quality filtration and purification products for air, gas and liquid applications, recently invested $400,000 into a new location in Michigan City. The company, which manufactures compressor products like air intake filters and refrigerated air dyers, expanded by 100,000 square feet and created 16 new jobs. Shell Catalysts & Technologies, a subsidiary of the multinational giant Royal Dutch Shell, also invested more than $30 million in new machinery and equipment in its Michigan City operations. The global leader in catalyst technology has captured as much as 30% of the global market and estimates “all molecules going into vehicles across the world have a significant chance of touching material that came from Michigan City.” And the cable designer and manufacturer, Sanlo Inc., a subsidiary of Central Wire Industries, a Canadian Company, added 33 more jobs over the last three years and invested $800,000 in new and rebuilt equipment at its Michigan City factory, which has been a springboard for entrance into new markets.

As part of the greater Chicagoland area, Michigan City is perfectly situated in the heart of the Midwest, Michigan City Chamber of Commerce President Katie Eaton said. “For manufacturers, or distribution facilities, businesses located here have quick and easy access to numerous North American markets,” she said. “It is an ideal place for foreign companies to locate their U.S. headquarters. And, our location assists with access to great talent. Not only does Northwest Indiana have regional campuses of both Purdue University and Indiana University but we are a short distance to Notre Dame and a plethora of top colleges in Chicago.” Michigan City has seen significant progress in recent years that’s included a new Hospital just north of Interstate 94, a recent federal Opportunity Zone designation that will provide tax incentives for new investment, and the game-changing improvements coming to passenger rail to Chicago, Eaton said.

“Our quality of life for both residents and visitors makes Michigan City a great destination,” she said. “Michigan City has a little bit of everything from beaches, hiking trails, entertainment, great downtown, breweries, wineries and we are steps away from rural communities where there are farms, camping, orchards, and a quieter lifestyle or a train ride away from the big city life in Chicago.” Michigan City is a major hub in the highly industrialized metro area of Northwest Indiana, on the South Shore of Lake Michigan just outside Chicago.

“Northwest Indiana is ideally situated within a day’s drive to 80% of the U.S population,” Northwest Indiana Forum President Heather Ennis said.
“Our deep freshwater port gives access to the interstate waterway system as well as the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Gulf of Mexico. Our Class 1 rail service in conjunction with our outstanding short-line service makes Northwest Indiana very attractive.”

Michigan City and the rest of the Region are business-friendly with a low cost of doing business and competitive taxation. “Currently a buyer’s market, Indiana business climate is one of the best in the Midwest and rank usually in the top 10 across the United States,” Ennis said. “Our taxes are low and the barrier to entry for land ownership is lower than many areas in the Midwest.”

“With miles of pristine beach, many art galleries, an outlet mall, a lively dining scene, and the excitement of gaming at the Blue Chip Casino Hotel Spa, Michigan City also boasts an outstanding quality of life,” Ennis said. It offers many attractions at Washington Park, including a zoo, formal gardens, and the city’s iconic lighthouse that’s appeared in millions of Instagram posts. “Nestled in the heart of the 61st National Park, Michigan City has beaches, hiking trails and a growing downtown to entice people to visit and stay,” Ennis said. The city has a hard-working and determined workforce, Ennis said. Major employers have been investing in job training and developing a talent pipeline.

“Air and gas compressor manufacturing is a major component of manufacturing in Michigan City and the surrounding area,” said Erin Sweitzer, Communications Director for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. “A new partnership program at the high school, the Compressed Air Academy, will serve as a hiring pipeline for an industry that supports over 2,000 jobs in LaPorte County.” The city also is seeing a surge in public sector investment that includes the double tracking project that runs from South Bend through Northwest Indiana to downtown Chicago.

The double-tracking project is expected to shave significant time off of the commute from Michigan City to downtown Chicago, a convenience that could potentially draw more residents who could work in the thirdlargest city in the United States while returning home to a beachfront community with a cozy small-town feel. It can improve quality of life by giving Michigan City residents a faster trip to downtown Chicago and its many attractions like the Art Institute, the Cloud Gate sculpture, Michelin-starred restaurants, and Broadway in Chicago theaters.

“One of the world’s best cities is just 60 miles away,” said Tim Smith, the co-founder and CEO of Midwest Public Affairs Group who lobbied to bring the South Shore Line double tracking to town and is developing a mixed-used transit-oriented development project downtown that will include luxury apartments and ground-floor retail. “The second track will make it more punctual and dependable so people can get to work in downtown Chicago.” Smith is a partner in a new development that is building a 200 unit, 11-story apartment building at 500 Pine Street. It will include a grab-and-go grocery store, a pool, bike racks, and lakefront views on most floors. The project aims to break ground in November and work on the development for about 18 months.

“You could live four blocks from the train, be 60 minutes from downtown Chicago, and have a view of Lake Michigan,” he said. “This is a project that will make people want to move downtown and help spur more development.” The South Shore Line project is expected to lure more residents planning to work in the city and live in the suburbs. “Double-tracking the South Shore line is transformational for Northwest Indiana,” Sweitzer said. “The double tracking will bring the travel time from Michigan City to downtown Chicago in just an hour.” Michigan City is part of the ChicagoNaperville-Elgin metropolitan statistical area of nearly 9.5 million people and part of the Great Lakes Megaregion that has abundant access to clean fresh water and lower property taxes than Illinois, said Michael Edgar, President and Co-founder of SelectChicago. He noted the Great Lakes Megalopolis would have a $45 trillion GDP if it were its own country, making it one of the largest economies in the world and roughly equivalent to Japan. The Hoosier city also prioritizes economic development, trying to get new companies to breaking ground in less than a year. Edgar credits city leaders with “developing a 64,000 square foot industrial facility on spec to have ready for an expanding company” and “working with Marbach America to allow fast-track development, bringing their manufacturing business from discovery call to ribbon cutting in under eight months.” The city’s diversified economy has resulted in a versatile workforce that serves both the manufacturing and professional sectors, Edgar said.

“I believe the future is bright for Michigan City,” Edgar said. “It has taken a number of solid steps to position itself to retain the talent they have through the Michigan City Promise Scholarship and attract talent for the future.” Michigan City is a great location for international investment, Sweitzer said. “Michigan City is the best of both worlds with its direct access to Chicago, the nation’s third-largest metropolitan by GDP, and Indiana’s stellar business climate,” she said. “The state is ranked No. 1 in the Midwest and fifth in the U.S. for business, No. 1 for infrastructure, and the third most affordable state in the nation. In addition to a great business climate, Michigan City offers a high quality of life with immediate proximity to Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Momentum has been building in Michigan City in recent years as it has blossomed into a great place to work and live.

“The community is focused on the revitalization of downtown and the Uptown Arts District - local small businesses and unique restaurants, many with an international focus, now populate the area,” Sweitzer said. “Michigan City has truly embraced its biggest quality of life asset - the Lake Michigan shoreline - and has transformed the lakeshore area and surrounding parks. Residents enjoy Washington Park, which is home to a marina, the Guy Foreman Amphitheatre, and many events and activities throughout the year.” “The city has transformed itself from a traditional Midwestern city in order to take advantage of its lakefront and unique downtown,” she said. “Now there is an opportunity to continue that transformation and focus even more on quality-of-life initiatives.” The city offers unique amenities to employers and employees alike, she said. “Michigan City has grown to be a large, vibrant city, attracting thousands of visitors to the Indiana Dunes, Lake Michigan shoreline, its historic neighborhoods and locally-owned boutiques, galleries and restaurants,” Sweitzer said.

“This lakeside city boasts many attractions, including Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets, Washington Park and Zoo, Blue Chip Casino, Hotel and Spa, Friendship Gardens, and the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, and attracts residents with its lakefront living.” The state of Indiana offers many incentives for investing in Michigan City and across the rest of the state.

Executive Director
Economic Development Corporation Michigan City.

Two Cadence Park Plaza Michigan City, IN 46360

Phone: 219-873-1211