A trucking company moving from Illinois to Indiana is the latest of dozens of companies that have made that switch in recent years.
It’s a boon to struggling northwest Indiana economies that Indiana officials say is thanks to their state’s business-friendly tax and regulatory structure.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation says at least 55 companies have moved some or all of their business from Illinois to Indiana in the past two years. They say that will create more than 5,500 jobs and $610 million in investment.
HMD Trucking is the latest transplant. It broke ground last week on its new headquarters in Gary, where it plans to bring 500 jobs by 2021.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says this is the first time she can remember a company moving its entire corporate headquarters to her city from Illinois.
“They want to work with the city to ensure that Gary residents are employed,” she says. “They want to be a part of the fabric of this community, and we welcome that.”
Freeman-Wilson wants Gary to see $200 million in total investment in the next several years. She hopes a third of it will come from Illinois.
“Not only do you have a more favorable tax structure [in Indiana], but you also have a ready workforce,” she says, “because the people who’ve been out of work due to the decline of steel are ready employees.”
Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority CEO Bill Hanna says Indiana’s fiscal stability and constitutionalized property tax caps are reassuring for smaller businesses, where every penny counts.
Lake County and others in the region are among the worst-impacted by those tax caps.
Hanna says cities like Gary will have to keep diversifying their traditionally industrial economies to bounce back from decades of economic decline.
“It’s hard, in a modern economy, to attract an employer large enough to completely turn the ship,” he says.
Hanna hopes quality-of-life improvements in northwest Indiana and its proximity to Chicago will pull in more transplants from their western neighbor.
And he hopes other states might follow Illinois’ lead.
“Can we attract not only people from Chicago to Northwest Indiana, but can we become a viable opportunity from anyone moving into the market?” he says. “If you’re moving from out of state into the Chicago market, are we on your list of residential opportunities?”
But there’s a caveat: Hanna says competition is only healthy insofar as it doesn’t hurt the Midwest’s economy overall. He compares it to professional football – competition among teams is great, he says, as long it’s helping the NFL itself thrive, too. I
“If we’re good stewards, then we’re trying to do both,” Hanna says. “And hopefully not too much at the expense of one another, at the end of the day.”