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Whiteland selected for utility program

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An empty 150-acre field that thousands of motorists drive by everyday will be looked at for ways to improve the chances of landing potential businesses and industry.

Duke Energy has selected the town of Whiteland to participate in its Site Readiness Program and will spend up to $30,000 on studying how to develop the 150-acre property, located on the southwest side of the town’s Interstate 65 exit.

The town has already targeted the area for future development, hoping to land anything from a small factory to offices, restaurants or shops. Ideally, the town would like to create a niche for the area, such as an Interstate 465 exit in Indianapolis that is home to several technology-based businesses, Whiteland Planning and Zoning Director Nathan Bilger said.

Whiteland is planning to more than double the size of its tax-increment financing, or TIF, district. About 730 acres near the interstate, including the 150 acres in the Duke program, are part of the TIF expansion plans. The town’s goal is to use future revenue collected in the TIF district to pay for infrastructure improvements in those areas, town manager Dennis Capozzi said.

Through the Duke program, a consultant will do an assessment of what is needed to make the area more attractive to potential businesses, such as adding water, sewer, or other utility lines to the site. An engineering firm will then produce a plan on where the town could hook onto existing utilities, where road improvements should be made, and how much those improvements would cost, Duke Energy spokesperson Lew Middleton said.

Once the assessment and site plans are finished, the town can apply for a matching grant for up to $10,000 to help pay for any recommended improvements, Middleton said.

The utility asked economic development organizations across the state to help find local cities and towns to submit applications for the program. A city or town could only apply if the proposed site was served by Duke Energy, which has about 800,000 customers in 69 counties, Middleton said.

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