(FRENCH LICK) – Direct revenue, tax and indirect income totaling up to $150 million represents the projected forecast from an independent analysis of the Mid-States Corridor Option 3F, according to a study sponsored by the French Lick Parkway Coalition and COOK Group. The research analyzing the potential of a new interstate in the Orange and Lawrence County region was conducted by Ginovus and the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.
According to the analysis, between 500-700 jobs are expected to be created during and after construction in and around Orange and Lawrence counties. Economic development professionals noted the added strong potential for commercial defense growth associated with NSWC and NSA Crane as an expected result of the new interstate.
“Interstate access to the region has long been an impediment to economic growth and further development of the quality of place in southeast Indiana,” said Shance Sizemore, chief executive officer of the Lawrence County Growth Council and the Bedford Chamber. “As the research conducted by Ginovus and the IU Public Policy Institute shows, a significant amount of untapped potential – including refreshed commercial defense and agribusiness growth – could be realized through the construction of a new interstate through the region.”
The formal French Lick Parkway Coalition report noted that businesses in Lawrence and Orange counties currently have “limited access to labor,” and that “friction in the market show up in disparities between metrics like housing vacancy, unemployment, and distribution of business output.”
While numerous economic, cost and safety benefits exist with the construction of the 3F route through French Lick, Mitchell and Bedford (connecting to I-69 south of Bloomington), construction of other options could actually diminish or accelerate the economic decline in the Bedford region.
Based on empirical data, the report concluded that building the U.S. 231 option may “exacerbate the business, employment and housing struggles facing Lawrence and Orange counties.”
Prior Battelle research conducted in 2014 for the region showed only a possible 1.5% increase in multi-county area population (minus Monroe County) and modest corresponding possible economic gains. Current trends show an actual population decline in Orange and Lawrence counties, due in part to critical issues related to workers not having ready access to open positions or career advancements.
Zach Brown, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Partnership (OCEDP), pointed out that current declining population trends have already created issues for workforce attraction and development for the region. “This region holds much potential for economic transformation, but access and infrastructure issues represent key limiting factors.”
“Over the past two decades, the Orange County region has been quietly diversifying and growing,” said Jerry Fuhs, a long-time Jasper Indiana entrepreneur and co-owner of the Wilstem Ranch, an innovative animal engagement facility near French Lick. “We anticipate 500,000 visitors to our Wilstem Ranch annually when fully developed – this highway is key to that growth,” he emphasized.
“Lack of infrastructure represents a key limitation that can cap long-term growth potential for the region – both of these issues can be aided by the commitment of new interstate connectivity,” Fuhs added.
Comparative isolation hinders tourism, supply chain, and manufacturing growth. “The main comment from our annual 1.1 million visitors to French Lick is that the resort is hard to get to,” said Steve Ferguson, chairman of COOK Group. “It is also an issue for the one million visitors to Patoka Reservoir.”
Beginning with the late Bill Cook, the COOK organization has invested more than $500 million into restoring and expanding the French Lick Resort, the West Baden Hotel, area PGA-level golf courses and other infrastructure in the region, including workforce housing.
The research was sponsored by the COOK Group and released through the French Lick Parkway Coalition, a group of area businesses, civic organizations, elected officials, tourism administrators, and economic development executives.
The possible Route 3F of the Mid-States Corridor project would run northeast from Jasper through southern Indiana to French Lick, Mitchell, and Bedford, connecting to I-69 south of Bloomington.
Downloadable copies of the French Lick Parkway Coalition research conducted by Ginovus and IU Public Policy analysis and other relevant materials are available at http://frenchlickparkwaycoalition.com/ Information is also available at https://lawrencecountygrowth.com/news and https://themekgroup.com/client-news/
Key Points from GINOVUS & IU Public Policy Institute Study
- Completion of route 3F shows “potential for significant growth in regional employment, wages, and tax revenue.”
- With the completion of 3F route, total forecasted revenue for the French Lick Resort could grow by an additional $75 million (within 10 years).
- With the expected growth in tourism and hospitality sales in the French Lick area, total regional “indirect sales output would grow to exceed $49 million annually.”
- With the forecasted development, major job creation (on top of an existing 1,275 FTE jobs) would occur at the French Lick Resort. The projected increase in business could support up to 462 new FTEs with an annual payroll increase of $18 million.
- Visitor traffic could increase from the current 1.1 million annual visitors (2019) to 1.5 million following completion of Corridor improvements, resulting in significant job, wage and sales output growth. Growth would be more widely distributed across the region as a result of the Corridor improvements.
- Traffic increase with the completion of 3F route would “justify the construction of 200 additional guest rooms,” at an estimated cost of $20 million in addition to Cook Group expectation of investments up to $7 million annually in ongoing capital improvements.
- Construction investments of $100 million for the new Corridor improvements (Section 2) would generate demand for 282 construction jobs from within the region. Section 3 construction is estimated to create demand for some 160 jobs and a continued investment of $50 million.
- About $145-$150 million in construction spending is expected to generate an additional $55 million of indirect sales output in the Mid-States Region. Expected Cook real property investments will result in another $2.3 million in ongoing, annual indirect output.
- New taxes generated by forecasted growth will “add $11-$12 million annually to what is currently being collected by all taxing authorities.” This is in addition to the $2.6 million in state and county income taxes, and another $26 million in other various taxes, including wagering, innkeeper, food & beverage, utility and property taxes generated now.
- Currently, a “net deficit of available workforce” exists in Daviess, Dubois, Martin, and Orange counties. Businesses in Lawrence and Orange counties currently have “limited access to labor, and friction in the market show up in disparities between metrics like housing vacancy, unemployment, and distribution of business output.”
- In Lawrence County, “local employers have trouble accessing labor that is willing or able to commute to Lawrence County from the surrounding area.”
- Lawrence County businesses servicing commercial defense contracts reported that “transportation time and cost is already impacting their ability to service customers.”
- Investing in Corridor improvements on the 231 option “exacerbate the business, employment and housing struggles facing Lawrence and Orange counties.”
- Similar to the current situation in Orange County, “the comparatively high volume and rate of vacant housing in Lawrence County supports the notion of commuting challenges causing limited access to jobs outside of the county.”
For more information Visit http://frenchlickparkwaycoalition.com/
About the French Lick Parkway Coalition – The French Lick Parkway Coalition is comprised of businesses, civic organizations, elected officials and economic development professionals dedicated to creating new opportunities, releasing untapped potential and fostering regional transformation. For more information, please visit http://frenchlickparkwaycoalition.com/
About the COOK Group — Headquartered in Indiana, with locations worldwide, COOK Group values of integrity, quality, respect, and transparency all help guide our work and our relationships with our employees, customers, and communities. We innovate by listening first, then looking for the best solutions based on the needs expressed. We believe that when employers, employees, and communities collaborate, everyone is able to achieve more. For more information, please visit https://www.cookgroup.com/
About the French Lick Resort – Regarding as a top classic American destination, the French Lick Resort is home to two nationally historic hotels, three nationally ranked golf courses, two major spas, impressive meeting and convention venues and a single-level casino. The resort is family-friendly, business-competent and highly regarded as a perfect convention or vacation facility. For more information, please visit https://www.frenchlick.com/