As growth spread outward from Marion County, Shelby County often went overlooked.
Over the last six years, Shelby County has been found.
Brian Asher, executive director of the Shelby County Development Corporation, detailed many local investment projects on Nov. 19 at the SCDC’s annual meeting held at Blessing’s Opera House in downtown Shelbyville.
“Since 2016 we are at $1,702,320,960 of industrial investment and warehouse investment,” said Asher. “That’s $1.7 billion with a ‘B’. That’s unbelievable in six years.”
On Monday, the Accelerate Rural Indiana group, which includes Shelbyville and Shelby County, will make a presentation to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation with the goal of being awarded up to $50 million as part of the READI grant.
Accelerate Rural Indiana consists of representatives of Shelbyville and Shelby County, Rushville and Rush County, Greensburg and Decatur County, and Batesville. The READI grant has $500 million to disperse across different regions to spur growth.
“We went through the planning process to see how to develop this area (along the Interstate 74 corridor) and attract people,” said Asher. “If all the projects come to fruition, that $50 million we receive could turn into $866 million of total investment for the region.”
Asher detailed to those attending the meeting several projects currently underway in Shelby County.
Bunge is working on a $345 million expansion project in Morristown that would match the largest expansion project in terms of dollars in Shelby County history.
The Pleasant View area along I-74 in the northern part of Shelby County is growing exponentially with Five Below’s newest distribution center under construction as well as HIS Constructors’ new corporate headquarters and Blue Star Redi Mix’s newest concrete facility.
Those three projects net approximately 562 jobs and $115 million in investment.
Two more large warehouse facilities in the area are in the planning phases.
“As you can see driving down I-74, it has totally changed that exit,” said Asher.
Closer to Shelbyville, an as-yet-to-be named project will be announced soon for a $290 million investment with 300 new jobs in the Fairland area near Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, which has several expansion projects of its own underway at a cost of $40 million.
With the completion this year of Major Health Partners Community Health and Wellness Center, which includes a new YMCA, retail growth has spurred around Exit 113 in Shelbyville.
Casey’s General Store and Zaxby’s restaurant are open with a Taco Bell and Culver’s currently under construction.
“I am excited to see some retail spaces going in that direction,” said Asher.
Greenleaf Foods made a splashy announcement over two years ago regarding building a new facility off Exit 116 in Shelbyville, but the $300 million project which would add over 450 jobs has been slow to develop.
“Everything continues to move forward with Greenleaf,” said Asher. “It’s a lot slower than we hoped with everything going on with COVID and the food service industry, but everything continues to move along and they are saying all the right things.”
To go along with the industrial and retail development, new or expanded housing subdivisions are under construction.
“There are close to 1,000 new homes coming our way,” said Asher.
Simultaneously with all that expanded growth, the City of Shelbyville is nearly finished with a three-year downtown redevelopment project that has modernized the Public Square and renovated a 100-year-old water fountain that will serve as a gathering place for downtown events in the future.
Mayor Tom DeBaun, now in his third term, has touted neighborhood connectivity during his tenure and pushed for new trail systems throughout the city that now includes over 14 miles of pedestrian-friendly walkways and bicycle paths.
“We went from zero to 14 miles in a matter of six years,” said DeBaun. “It’s those things, paying attention to the community and, quite frankly, talking to the youth in our community and asking them, ‘What would bring you back or keep you here or what are the things that keep you from coming back?’
“It’s recreational opportunities. It’s diverse, independently-owned investment in the forms of restaurants and boutiques. It’s trail opportunities and educational opportunities.”
Brian Asher, executive director of Shelby County Development Corporation, discusses several industrial investment projects underway in Shelby County during the SCDC's annual meeting on Nov. 19 at Blessing's Opera House in downtown Shelbyville. At Asher's right is a backdrop painting likely used for the last opera or play held at Blessing's Opera House in the early 1900s.
As the downtown takes on a new look, so will Blessing’s Opera House, located just above Pudder’s restaurant on the Public Square. Now owned by Rob Nolley, president of the city’s Common Council, and his business partner, Jason Foltz, Blessing’s Opera House originally opened in 1869.
John Blessing wanted the city to have a first-class entertainment venue. The facility was the host site for a Frederick Douglass speech on March 17, 1870, according to Nolley, that drew 10,000 people to the downtown area.
The entertainment venue closed in 1906. The space continued to be used for meetings before it became part of DePrez’s hardware store where the second floor became well known for its toy selections.
The space officially closed in 1986 and is currently under restoration by Nolley and Foltz to reinvent it as an entertainment and meeting venue.
Nolley’s goal is to have the facility open during this year’s downtown Christmas celebration on Dec. 3.