The Difference One Road Can Make

The Difference One Road Can Make

Indiana’s newest interstate highway, I-69, only runs through Pike County for roughly 15 miles, give or take, but the opportunities it’s expected to bring have the potential to be huge for the local economy. Earlier this year, the county released its master plan for land use, transportation, and infrastructure development for 4,000 acres along the I-69 interchange, providing an interesting snapshot of the effect one road can make on a community.

The stretch of I-69 that runs through Pike County was part of the initial four phases of the new interstate’s construction. It is now open to traffic and subsequent phases of the road that will eventually connect Bloomington to Martinsville are under construction. The final stretch, from Martinsville to Indianapolis, is still in its planning phases.

Pike County only has one interchange on I-69 at the State Road 56/61 junction near Petersburg, but officials are planning for “generational development.” Their goal is to establish long-term growth for a range of industries including sectors like healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, and others.

This map shows the area Pike County is studying for development along its I-69 interchange and depicts a design concept of what it could look like.

To summarize the Pike County Economic Development Corporation’s goals into a single concise statement, the organization is seeking to transform the interchange area into the focal point of employment, recreation, and residential activity within the region. Quite frankly, now that the county has an interstate running through it, there’s a very good chance it’ll succeed in this goal in the foreseeable future. Compared to other counties with more established industrial sectors near major interstates, Pike County has a lot of resources at its disposal.

For starters, it’s got land. Lots of land, actually. Among the top 20 industrial mega-sites throughout Indiana, the average amount of acreage is about 1,512 acres. As previously mentioned, Pike has roughly 4,000 acres encompassed in its study, outpacing other areas considerably.

It’s common for metro areas of the state to see more development than areas like Pike County will in a given year, but those areas typically have a much smaller portfolio of vacant land available for new development. As Pike County makes its transition from a non-interstate county to one with a new interstate, officials there expect to see a much greater industrial market share become absorbed by the area.

As an example, the county’s plan included data on the 10-year increases seen in industrial inventories by county type, those with an interstate and those without. Non-interstate counties in southwest Indiana averaged just 800 square feet of development over a ten-year period. Interstate counties averaged over 175,000 during the same ten-year period, a dramatic difference. Using the same logic, one could safely presume Pike County will see major investments headed its way now that it has much greater connectivity.

The land’s location right next to the new interstate is another big advantage for Pike County’s plans. On average, the top 20 industrial mega-sites throughout Indiana are approximately 7.5 miles away from the nearest interstate, significantly more distant than the study area’s immediate proximity to I-69. Getting shipments onto and off of I-69 is going to be a breeze for most companies, which is important given the nature of modern manufacturing.

As explained by the plan, “Where once heavy manufacturing facilities imported raw materials and turned them into finished goods in larger integrated plants, today manufacturing is an additive process, with products moving through several assembly stages, taking place over larger distances and involving multiple suppliers, linked by increasingly nimble supply chains. Inventory is more likely to be moving on a truck or container than stored in a warehouse, meaning that land use factors associated with truck access and trailer parking/storage figure more importantly in site design today.”

The one key challenge area for Pike County is the current available workforce. If you look at those top mega-sites throughout the state again, you’d see that they have an average labor force of about 13,000 within a five-mile radius. At the moment, Pike County only has about 2,600 in that same radius, but it’s worth noting that figure will likely grow as more development takes place.

The difference an interstate can make on a county’s economy is rather striking, and it’s going to be interesting to track all of the progress Pike County will likely be making over the next several years. After major corporations and various types of industry sectors begin to take advantage of the available space, it’s likely going to reshape the entire area’s demographics and future. Definitely something to keep an eye on.


How Important is an Interstate for Industrial Development?

  • Non-interstate counties in southwest Indiana averaged just 800 square feet of industrial development over a ten-year period.
  • Interstate counties averaged over 175,000 square feet during the same period.

Source: Pike County

Looking at the Big Picture

I-69, at one time the longest contiguous new terrain interstate construction project in the U.S., is being built in several phases:

  • I-69 from Evansville to Bloomington is now open to traffic.
  • Construction on the stretch from Bloomington to Martinsville began in late 2014 and is scheduled for completion in 2018.
  • The final connection, from Martinsville to Indianapolis, is still in the planning phases. Final environmental impact studies concluded earlier this year.

Source: INDOT


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