If you drive the Indiana Toll Road, you know it's a huge thoroughfare for semis taking products from coast-to-coast. But could more businesses be developed along the toll road corridor? A recent economic study from Ball State University says that answer is yes.
The study says the toll road is unique for several reasons: it’s one of the longest toll roads in the country, and it’s anchored by Chicago – the largest city along a toll road. Researchers also say 1/3 of Indiana’s economic activity happens in the northern region of the state, and all the open fields and larger urban areas are very diverse – making the toll road corridor a perfect place for development.
The Tire Rack is already located near the toll road. Company Vice President Matt Edmonds said his family chose to build there not because of its location close to the busy interstate, but because the site was very developable and it was close to the family.
But over time, the company expanded much more than expected. It ships across the country on a daily basis.
“[It’s] very, very important to be able to get that product on the move and get it to the customer very, very quickly,” Edmonds said.
The St. Joseph County distribution center is the second fastest of its six centers nationwide.
“We are just far enough east and just far enough west and it works out perfectly,” Edmonds added. “We often wonder why there aren't more companies like ourselves that are doing this kind of shipping that haven't taken advantage of it.”
The Tire Rack is also two blocks from the Toll Road. The Ball State Indiana Toll Road Economic Development Corridor Study says areas around the four-lane interstate have more potential over the next 20 years.
“One of the things that every place in the country is looking for is a chance to exploit that next really big, nice high tech technology, and one that's going to provide a wide range from high paid jobs in the business end and the science and development side to more modestly but highly compensated positions in manufacturing and the production and distribution of these,” said Michael Hicks, Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research director.
He pointed out nanotechnology research at the University of Notre Dame as a prime example.
Meanwhile, the Toll Road Oversight Board is already planning for the future.
“Any company that relies upon good highway transportation and access to major markets is probably going to be interested in this toll road corridor,” said board member Leigh Morris.
Morris is confident this could mean more businesses coming to our area, which means more jobs will come with them. That, in turn, leads to lower property taxes and an overall healthier economy.
The board hopes to have a more concrete plan for toll road corridor development by the end of the year.