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BusINess » BusINess Story of the Week » Hammond hopes for $80M deal with world’s largest fertilizer producer

Hammond hopes for $80M deal with world’s largest fertilizer producer

Fertilizer maker PotashCorp is working with Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad on what would be an $80 million project at the Gibson Yard in Hammond, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. PotashCorp Public Affairs Director Bill Johnson confirmed the site, west of Indianapolis Boulevard, is one of several the company has looked at in the Midwest for its new operation. (Photograph by John J. Watkins/The Times)

Fertilizer maker PotashCorp is working with Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad on what would be an $80 million project at the Gibson Yard in Hammond, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said. PotashCorp Public Affairs Director Bill Johnson confirmed the site, west of Indianapolis Boulevard, is one of several the company has looked at in the Midwest for its new operation. (Photograph by John J. Watkins/The Times)

The world’s largest fertilizer producer wants to locate a rail transfer center in Hammond at the Gibson Yard, which could kick off more development and job creation there, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said.

City officials have talked about a “multimillion dollar investment” north of Summer Street for some time. But McDermott confirmed for the first time this week that PotashCorp, of Saskatoon, Canada, is the interested party.

The fertilizer maker is working with Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad on what would be an $80 million project at the Gibson Yard, the mayor said.

“It is a major, major investment that we are talking about at that location,” McDermott said.

In addition, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad has told the city two other companies are interested in locating there if the deal is finalized, said Phil Taillon, Hammond director of planning and development. Total investment by companies at the site eventually could reach $200 million.

Taillon said negotiations still are under way on incentives, but the deal could be complete within six months. The most likely incentive is creation of a tax increment financing district, where the company would make payments in place of property taxes that would be used to improve infrastructure at the site, he said.

Taillon said it would be the company’s largest transfer facility in North America.

“As much as they want to be in Hammond, we want them to be in Hammond,” McDermott said. “But we will not give away the store.”

Indiana Harbor Belt now is spending about $800,000 to clear and level 90 acres of land south of its tracks between Columbia Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard’s Nine Span Bridge, said Jim Sheppard, Indiana Harbor Belt senior director of commercial operations.

Crews work Thursday on the grading of 90 acres in Hammond owned by Indiana Harbor Belt, which is spending about $800,000 to prepare land between Columbia Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard's Nine Span Bridge for future development, said Jim Sheppard, IHB senior director of commercial operations. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said fertilizer giant PotashCorp is interested in developing a rail transfer center on the land. (Photograph by Tim Hunt/The Times)

Crews work Thursday on the grading of 90 acres in Hammond owned by Indiana Harbor Belt, which is spending about $800,000 to prepare land between Columbia Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard's Nine Span Bridge for future development, said Jim Sheppard, IHB senior director of commercial operations. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said fertilizer giant PotashCorp is interested in developing a rail transfer center on the land. (Photograph by Tim Hunt/The Times)

Sheppard said the work is not for any specific tenant but is being done in anticipation of future opportunities.

“It’s a big piece of land in this area, and we just want to be ready whatever opportunities come down the road,” Sheppard said.

PotashCorp Public Affairs Director Bill Johnson confirmed Gibson Yard is one of a number of sites the company has looked at in the Midwest for its new operation. He said no agreement has been signed for the site and any work being done there now is not being done at Potash’s direction.

McDermott said only about five to 10 people would be employed by PotashCorp at its operation. But railroads estimate the project would create up to 70 additional jobs on railroads that would be shipping PotashCorp product, he said. The building of the facility would create 225 construction jobs.

The biggest job creation actually would come when other companies follow PotashCorp to the site with associated operations, McDermott said.

The area between Summer Street and the Gibson Yard is one of the most blighted in the city, Taillon said. It contains many old factory buildings, including the abandoned Gladden paint factory. PotashCorp is interested in a site off Hump Road, which sits about halfway between Columbia Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard, he said.

State plans for building a new Nine Span Bridge call for a bridge of the same height and length as the present one, meaning it will not interfere with any future projects at Gibson Yard, INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton said. Some earlier plans had called for the bridge to be shortened, potentially restricting activity at the yard.

PotashCorp employs 5,486 worldwide and is the world’s leading producer of potash, a key ingredient in agricultural fertilizers. It has operations in seven countries around the globe.

Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad is the largest switch carrier in the United States, providing all Class I railroads and others in the Chicago area with connections to one another and to key customers.

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