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BusINess » Keith Benman

Posts Tagged ‘Keith Benman’

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.
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Tourism chiefs face post-recession challenges

Fairfield Inn and Suites General Manager Jeff Lawn does a room inspection Thursday at the hotel in Hammond. Lake County hotel bookings and revenue are down. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times)

Fairfield Inn and Suites General Manager Jeff Lawn does a room inspection Thursday at the hotel in Hammond. Lake County hotel bookings and revenue are down. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times)

Tourism chiefs across the region are touting initiatives to rebuild after the recession devastated overall hotel revenues and lowered occupancy rates, with some recovery seen last year.

Some are building on existing programs to lure visitors, one is lucky enough to have an expanded convention center, while one is calling for a “game-changer” for the region.

“We need a demand generator,” said Speros Batistatos, CEO of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, based in Lake County. “We need something that will bring people here and move occupancy up.”

That something is a 75,000- to 100,000-square-foot multi-use facility capable of hosting conventions, trade shows and sporting events, Batistatos said. A local sales tax on food and beverages at restaurants and bars is his favored means of paying for it.

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Rail tsunami could swamp NWI in coming decades

Developments in far off lands could have a big impact on everyone’s drive to work in Northwest Indiana, with the number of freight trains lumbering through the region expected to double by 2035.

That is because a historic shift in shipping patterns has the potential to hit the East Coast with an “Asian tsunami” of seaborne freight over the next two decades, according to freight experts. Much of that freight will make its way to Chicago and the Midwest via a 15-mile-wide rail corridor in Northwest Indiana.
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LaHood: Rail means jobs

Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, listens to U.S. Rep., Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., talk to media Thursday after the Rail Delivers Jobs summit at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, listens to U.S. Rep., Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., talk to media Thursday after the Rail Delivers Jobs summit at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made an impassioned pitch Thursday to 300 Northwest Indiana business leaders to become partners with the Obama administration when it comes to high-speed rail.

“If Indiana gets its act together, you could be a dominant player in this plan in this region of the country,” LaHood told them at a Rail Delivers Jobs summit in Chesterton.

Getting the five-year reauthorization of the federal transportation bill passed by Congress, with the Obama administration’s $53 billion request for high-speed rail intact, will be key to getting the job done, LaHood said.
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NWI home sales get hot in winter’s depth

A Realtor shows a couple the kitchen of a Valparaiso home. Home sales increased 32.3 percent in January from January 2010 in Northwest Indiana. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan, file | The Times.)

A Realtor shows a couple the kitchen of a Valparaiso home. Home sales increased 32.3 percent in January from January 2010 in Northwest Indiana.
(Photograph by Kyle Telechan, file | The Times.)

For the first time in seven months in Northwest Indiana, existing single-family home sales increased compared to one year ago, giving Realtors hope a housing market turnaround is starting.

Home sales increased 32.3 percent in January from January 2010, with the median selling price holding stable at $115,000 in the five-county area, according to the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.
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Jobs key to everyone’s recovery

Century 21 Executive Realty owner Bill McCabe speaks at The Times Board of Economists meeting Feb. 9 at the Radisson in Merrillville. "Right now we just don't have that spark that is creating jobs," McCabe said. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

Century 21 Executive Realty owner Bill McCabe speaks at The Times Board of Economists meeting Feb. 9 at the Radisson in Merrillville. “Right now we just don't have that spark that is creating jobs,” McCabe said. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks/The Times.)

Weak job creation is hindering the recovery of industries across the board in Northwest Indiana, according to the Times Board of Economists.

Tim Roper, owner of Smith Auto Group, said when serious job creation finally starts, buyers will return to auto showrooms.

“The huge fundamental for our industry is jobs,” Roper said.
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Rail summit to highlight freight, high-speed, commuter

The United States’ top transportation official is coming to Chesterton to boost freight, passenger and high-speed rail as the solution to rebuilding the U.S. economy.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will be the keynote speaker at the Rail Delivers Jobs summit on Thursday at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

“It’s unusual that a U.S. cabinet secretary comes to Northwest Indiana,” said Rex Richards, executive director of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. “And it’s very significant that he is coming to talk about the key issue of rail, which is an important part of our total economic development program.”
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Indiana to Illinois businesses: We want you

Local officials join Indiana Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob, right, during a news conference Monday at the Hammond marina to announce efforts to lure Illinois employers to Northwest Indiana. At the lectern is Mark Maassel, president and CEO of the NWI Forum, and to left is Don Babcock, economic development director for NIPSCO. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times .)

Local officials join Indiana Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob, right, during a news conference Monday at the Hammond marina to announce efforts to lure Illinois employers to Northwest Indiana. At the lectern is Mark Maassel, president and CEO of the NWI Forum, and to left is Don Babcock, economic development director for NIPSCO. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times .)

The Northwest Indiana Forum on Monday launched a $250,000 advertising blitz that will attempt to squeeze some business opportunities out of Illinois’ recent hike in personal and corporate income taxes.

Illinois employers soon will see billboards, print and cable ads asking them if they are “Feeling Squeezed by Taxes?” The campaign will be in concert with the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s Illinnoyed by Higher Taxes? campaign launched in late January.

“In Indiana you will find a team that is trustworthy, that is reliable and that will help your business make more money,” said Forum Chairman Don Babcock in a campaign kickoff at the Hammond Marina.
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Martin Luther King bridge replacement bids rejected

The Martin Luther King Jr. Drive bridge is closed over the the Borman Expressway in Gary. Cracks are visible from the east side of the bridge. (Photograph by Heather Eidson, File/The Times.)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Drive bridge is closed over the the Borman Expressway in Gary. Cracks are visible from the east side of the bridge. (Photograph by Heather Eidson, File/The Times.)

All bids for replacing the Martin Luther King Drive bridge in Gary have been rejected after coming in above engineers estimates, said INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton.

INDOT will now re-evaluate what its next steps should be when it comes to replacing the bridge, Pinkerton said.

INDOT closed the six-year-old bridge May 19 after inspectors found extensive cracking on the bridge deck, cracks in the bridge beams and cracking in the beam flange. INDOT engineers said the cracked concrete led them to doubt the bridge’s load-carrying capacity.

Superior Construction of Gary, the bridge’s builder, and RQAW of Indianapolis, its designer, have been suspended from seeking state contracts because of the bridge’s premature failure. But both those suspensions are on hold pending appeals.

Superior Construction was the low bidder on building a replacement bridge with a bid of $2,992,887. Three other construction companies bid more.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has pledged to replace the bridge and have it open by the end of the year.


Home sales slide stops in December

A home for sale in Portage had its price reduced. Sales of existing single-family homes fell just 4.3 percent in December as compared to December 2009 in the five counties covered by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. In some markets, sales were up, such as in Porter county, where 20.5 percent more homes were sold in December. (Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks, file/The Times.)

A home for sale in Portage had its price reduced. Sales of existing single-family homes fell just 4.3 percent in December as compared to December 2009 in the five counties covered by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. In some markets, sales were up, such as in Porter county, where 20.5 percent more homes were sold in December.
(Photograph by Jon L. Hendricks, file/The Times.)

Home sales in Northwest Indiana leveled off in December following five straight months of plummeting sales numbers, giving rise to hope the long-awaited housing turnaround may be just around the corner.

Sales of existing single-family homes fell just 4.3 percent in December compared to December 2009 in the five counties covered by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. In some markets, sales were up, such as in Porter County, where 20.5 percent more homes were sold in December.

“I think it’s just that more people are feeling better about things,” said Minakshi Ghuman, a Realtor with Century 21 Pace Estates in Valparaiso. Read the rest of this entry »