State and local officials broke ground Monday on a $3.7 billion Eli Lilly manufacturing facility in Boone County.
The event included the announcement of another $1.6 billion in investments and 200 jobs in addition to plans the company unveiled last year.
Officials with Eli Lilly said the new facility will help them produce state-of-the-art drugs – including the company's new diabetes and obesity drug, Mounjaro.
In his address, Gov. Eric Holcomb highlighted the number of recent developments across the state.
“The hits just keep on coming,” he said. “These are the jobs, the careers of the future that make a difference not only for our state but for our country.”
All told, the project is expected to bring 700 jobs to the region.
Officials hope the investment is the first of many in a tech and industrial “mega site” near the city of Lebanon. The district, dubbed LEAP (Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace), specifically hopes to attract manufacturers of aerospace parts and electric motor vehicles, medical diagnostic laboratories, and semiconductor manufacturing, among others.
Some community members have raised concerns about the large development -- particularly wondering what it means for their way of life in a mostly rural area of the state.
Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers briefly nodded to those concerns.
“I understand those in the community that were, or even continue, to be concerned. Change is uncomfortable,” he said.
Critics of the project have also raised logistical questions, including how the development will source its water. State officials have noted that Lebanon has “long- term water availability” concerns, which means water is likely to be piped in from other parts of the state.
“We’re making sure that we’re able to responsibly meet the needs and demands of the interested industries that are looking to locate here,” Holcomb told reporters when asked about water issues.
Chambers said the LEAP project offers an opportunity to solve the water problem.
“They (Lebanon) were going to have a water challenge whether it was in five years or 15 years,” he said. “So being able to put this significant economic development infrastructure in this area, and at the same time solve a water problem for the region, that’s a double bottom line.”
It’s not entirely clear how much the LEAP mega site will cost. Chambers couldn’t offer reporters any hard numbers on what the entire district will cost taxpayers.
“It’s hundreds of millions going into billions. But the return on that hundreds of millions and billions is more than that, obviously,” he said. “This is a good investment for the state's future.”
As part of the development, Eli Lilly has also announced a $15 million investment over the next five years in Ivy Tech Community College. The program will offer 1,000 eligible Ivy Tech students financial assistance and training opportunities as part of an effort to build the talent pipeline for some of the jobs announced by Lilly.
The facility is expected to be completed in 2027.