December 19, 2023

As IEDC asks for millions, lawmakers ask questions about transparency

Article origination WBAA News
<b>Mark Wasky with the IEDC answers questions from lawmakers about their budget requests. (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)</b>

Mark Wasky with the IEDC answers questions from lawmakers about their budget requests. (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation requested hundreds of millions of dollars during a state budget committee meeting on Tuesday.

The funding will be used to court two advanced manufacturing projects and to expand the Lebanon industrial district.

The IEDC requested $180 million for a “deal closing fund” intended to help bring two advanced manufacturing projects to the state. The companies – and locations -- that would receive those projects have not been publicly released.

The IEDC is also requesting roughly $100 million more to buy more land for the Lebanon industrial district, construct roadways and meet “other critical utility needs.”

Several lawmakers grilled IEDC about the expenditures.

Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) questioned the logic of creating new jobs during an existing worker shortage.

“At what point does IEDC say the return on investment is much higher to invest these dollars differently than creating jobs we can’t even fill?” he asked.

IEDC officials said they understood those concerns, but underlined the importance of attracting new investments to the state to keep Indiana from falling behind.

Qaddoura also said he didn’t feel comfortable supporting such large expenditures for projects lawmakers knew little about.

“We’re giving almost 300 million dollars worth of incentives for a project I don’t know the company, I don’t where it’s going to be located, I have no information about how much water it’s going to consume, but I work with amazing friends in IEDC who will bring the best interest for the state of Indiana,” he said.

IEDC officials have maintained that project information cannot be disclosed as they work on multimillion-dollar deals to attract companies to the state.

Other lawmakers said they’d like to see better oversight of the IEDC more generally.

Rep. Edward DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) said he would give any information the IEDC gave him directly to the public – until there was some kind of structure for information to be confidentially disclosed to lawmakers.

“This is not that structure for true monitoring and oversight of what you’re doing,” he said. “...I stand ready to join others in the legislature in figuring out how to monitor you.”

Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka) took a moment to address the water side of the IEDC’s plans. In Tippecanoe County, officials have been concerned about water withdrawals needed to support the IEDC’s project in Lebanon.

“I just want to clarify that it wasn’t like a secret that there was a water issue in Central Indiana for several years – it’s just now coming to a head,” he said.

Contact WBBA/WFYI reporter Ben Thorp at bthorp@wfyi.org.
 

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