Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton has announced that he wants the city to give an acre of downtown property to an auto parts manufacturer that wants to make its North American corporate headquarters there. In exchange, the company would create at least 18 jobs.
Hamilton says he wants to give a .9-acre property to the Tsuchiya Group, a multinational corporation whose North American branch is run by Indiana University Trustee Melanie Walker.
The company’s primary customer is Toyota, although it also serves other automotive producers.
Although the city will sell the land for only $1, Hamilton says that the Tsuchiya Group will make investments in the property. He made the announcement during an event November 16th at the Dimension Mill.
“(Tsuchiya’s North American branch) will invest over $9 million to develop a property with an architecturally significant new building,” Hamilton said. “They will…retain 34 full-time professional positions and create at least 18 new positions, including a dozen engineers and other professionals.”
It’s not clear exactly how much the point-nine-acre parcel of land is worth. The city paid about $750,000 per acre in 2011 when the city bought the property, along with 11 more acres of downtown property, from Indiana University.
Besides the free property, the city administration has also proposed giving Tsuchiya a tax break, cutting about 70 percent of its property taxes over a ten-year period.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is also offering up to $300,000 in tax credits and more than $40,000 worth of training grants. Walker, the IU trustee and CEO of Tsuchiya in North America, is also a Board member at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Hamilton described the deal as good for what is known as the Trades District, an area of downtown that the city hopes to build into a home for technology companies.
“It means we are going to see a facility more modern and hi-tech than we have ever had in the area,” Hamilton said. “When this facility opens its doors, it will help usher in a new era of creative technical design, engineering and corporate leadership here in the Trades District.”
Hamilton made the announcement November 16th along with IU President Michael McRobbie, Bloomington Economic Development Corporation president Lynn Coyne and Melanie Walker.
Although there was a celebratory mood among the crowd present at Hamilton’s announcement, some other Bloomington residents are less enthusiastic about the Tsuchiya deal.
Adam Scouten, a member of the Bloomington Solidarity Network, points out that the city purchased the land from the Indiana University in 2011, only to now give the land to a multinational corporation run by an IU trustee.
“It’s just a further indication that the university is more and more acting like a corporate entity,” Scouten said. “It seems pretty clear that the university and the Board of Trustees are really in the driver’s seat on this.”
The Bloomington Solidarity Network has been critical of the city’s plans to build up the Trades District, otherwise known as the Certified Tech Park. The group worries the development will increase property values on the northwest side of downtown, particularly in the Maple Heights Neighborhood, ultimately driving out lower income people who seek affordable housing there.
Scouten says today’s announcement exacerbates his concerns about the larger project.
“It’s a little bit worse than what we expected,” Scouten said. “We’ve been saying the whole time that this project is being funded by the people who will be negatively affected by it. This is such a clear confirmation of that. It’s basically just a way to transfer money out of the public’s pocket, take land which was owned by the university, and give that land and that money to an individual who represents a corporation.”
The Bloomington Solidarity Network is hosting a meeting on Saturday, November 26th, at the Monroe County Public Library, Meeting Room 1C. Scouten says the group will discuss Trades District developments, including what was announced today.