Innovation center planned for Warsaw Chemical property in Warsaw

Warsaw Chemical's building south of Durbin Street would be renovated as part of an innovation center. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — While a new parking garage and relocation of the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds received much of attention last week with the rollout of plans by OrthorWorx, the city is throwing its support behind another big proposal.

The city of Warsaw announced on Monday plans to acquire all of Warsaw Chemical’s property on Argonne Road to help establish a state innovation and development district.

According to Jeremy Skinner, the city’s director of economic and community development, Warsaw Chemical has tentative plans to continue operations at a new location in Warsaw.

The innovation center would be geared toward orthopedics, Skinner said.

The overall plan would include involvement with Grace College.

“Ideally, we would like to have Grace College’s engineering program come alongside us … we would have our innovation center in there (and) potential spaces for startups and we’re also talking to the school about potentially having their career academy as well,” Skinner said.

The city plans to contribute $6.5 million, which would cover the cost of property acquisition and relocation of the company, he said.

Creating a state innovation district has been compared to the use of local tax increment finance (TIF) districts.

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), an Innovation Development District (IDD) “is a unique tool created to support the attraction and
expansion of transformational, advanced industry
businesses within the state.”

The designation as an IDD allows for the capture of certain state and local
incremental tax revenues that can be invested in support of the IDD and the growth of the state’s high-technology economy, according to the IEDC website.

Other sources of money are being sought. The city does not intend to keep the property, Skinner said.

The innovation center appears to be the biggest, most expensive proposal put forward by OrthWorx last week and is part of a new economic development tool created by the state legislature two years ago. 

OrthoWorx is pledging up to $2 to support the plan, but preliminary estimates about the total investment cost is expected to be close to $100 million, according to paperwork provided by OrthoWorx.

Part of the city’s share of the cost would come from money in its tech park fund.

Warsaw Chemical owns large buildings north and south of Durbin Street. The entire property spans nearly ten acres.

Skinner said the building south of Durbin Street is about 70,000 square feet and would be renovated while the building to the north would likely be razed.

He said developing an innovation center comes with a cost.

“Think about what a training center looks like. Think about the equipment to have startups and a prototyping center, engineering college … a lot goes into that. It would (require) heavy renovations of those facilities to make it all work,” Skinner said.

Plans to acquire the property are still preliminary and more environmental assessment is still needed, Skinner said.

A view of the Warsaw Chemical building north of Durbin Street in Warsaw. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.