A Look at the Impact of Eli Lilly’s Investment in Boone County

5/5 - (1 vote)

May/June 2023

There have been several media releases and announcements made about Eli Lilly’s $3.7-billion investment in Boone County. For that reason, Zionsville Monthly thought it prudent to interview David Rosenberg, Indiana Economic Development Corporation COO and Chief of Staff David Rosenberg, and a few Boone County officials to get a more comprehensive look at how this investment into the Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace (LEAP) Lebanon Innovation District will impact the residents of Boone County.

Why Boone County?

Eli Lilly’s proposal to bring two new manufacturing facilities to the LEAP District has moved forward, and the sitework has commenced. The site will bring up to 700 high-wage jobs and approximately 1,500 construction jobs north of Lebanon, east of I-65, and south of County Road 450 North. The Eli Lilly site will encompass more than 1.6 million square feet and will act as an anchor to the IEDC’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District.

Eli Lilly Boone County

“LEAP was announced as a district to attract the economies of the future and to retain that top talent as we continue to move into advanced manufacturing industries and get the economy that we want for Indiana over the next 50 years,” Rosenberg stated. “Creating shovel-ready sites as a state is critical to meet the speed and needs of the market, and they say speed is the new incentive. Obviously, dollars and cents are very important to companies, but being able to meet their speed to make that investment into a shovel-ready site so they can get a return on that investment sooner is absolutely critical to those industries.”

Rosenberg continued, “Boone County has been a county of growth for years now, and you’ve seen that with the Lebanon Business Park and other developments going on around there. The LEAP location is right on the 50-yard line between Purdue University and the Indianapolis labor markets and all the great communities within Boone County and the northside of Indianapolis that can provide that workforce as well. Then there’s the ease of doing business, whether it’s getting to the airport or having highway access. All of these factors made Boone County a no-brainer in terms of the business case for the location there.”

An Unprecedented Project

The Eli Lilly project is unlike any other by way of not only its location but also in how it will contribute to the ecosystem that will be built around the two facilities.

Rosenberg added, “LEAP is not going to be a traditional business park. It is intentionally designed to attract those economies of the future, and having all of that in one place and creating that cohesiveness with industry, workforce, and community is so important for these industries to know that they can put their facility here and they’ll have the workforce and partners in the ecosystem around them so that they can succeed for the next five decades.”

Per Rosenberg, “April 17, 2023, was a historic day for Boone County, the region, and Indiana as a whole with the groundbreaking of the $3.7-billion investment for Eli Lilly. The vision for LEAP was quickly realized, and Lilly, being the cornerstone of LEAP, truly fulfills that mission. It is also the largest single investment in Eli Lilly company history, and it’s the largest deal that the IEDC has ever done. Dave Ricks [Eli Lilly’s chair and CEO] even said on the day of the announcement that without a site like LEAP, Eli Lilly would not have located this [site] in Indiana. It is a true response to the market and what they need for us to be competitive among our peer states. In terms of high-wage jobs, we’re looking at near or over six figures as the average annual salary in a production facility that Eli Lilly will run [for the next several decades] in Boone County.”

Opportunities for Workforce Development

Eli Lilly committed $15 million over five years to the Ivy Tech Foundation, which will fund up to 1,000 scholarships.

“This creates scholarships and experiential learning at Ivy Tech for high school and college students going into pharmaceutical manufacturing,” Rosenberg explained. “That’s an incredible example of government, higher education, and industry coming together to create that workforce pipeline, ensuring that companies are successful as they locate here.”

Rosenberg further discussed the value of the geographical advantage of the LEAP District in Boone County and its impact on the workforce pipeline.

“Purdue [University] is an invaluable partner, and what they bring to the table is one of the main reasons why locating this first LEAP District in Boone County made a ton of sense,” Rosenberg said. “Purdue is a 30-minute drive north, and you can share not only talent but resources and research. Lafayette and West Lafayette will also see huge benefits from the LEAP development, and LEAP will see huge benefits from the development that is going on in Lafayette and West Lafayette.”

Rosenberg added, “IU is an invaluable partner as well with their research, development and focus on life sciences. The possibilities are truly endless by having all these partners come together. We’ve seen a lot of our competition start to move to the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, so having resources like LEAP and having the financial resources and incentives that the legislature gave us this year to put together deals in Indiana has huge momentum, and we see even bigger possibilities ahead.”

Impacts on Infrastructure

We spoke with both Rosenberg and Boone County Director of Highways Nick Parr about the immediate impact that the construction of the Eli Lilly site will have and what improvements are necessary.

“We have a great working relationship with both the city and county engineers and INDOT,” Rosenberg said. “We’re not going in with any preconceived notions about how the entire site should be worked out. It’s going to be in partnership with the city and county partners and INDOT as well as the industries to ensure that we have the road network and the infrastructure access to rail and highway that they need for them to be successful, again with that partnership with the city and county at the forefront.”

Parr added, “There are three sides of the Lilly project that are the main concerns for moving traffic. The main impact of County Road 300 N from State Rd. 39 to US 52 will be a main route for traffic and a primary route for traffic because of the weight rated structures, gravel roads, and other roadways that join the Lilly project or run adjacent to it. All construction traffic has to run 300 N off of State Rd. 39 or off of US 52 to work its way to County Rd. 150 W, which is south of the Lilly project. That movement will take you north right into the Lilly site, and that is the number one concern right now.”

Parr and Rosenberg both explained that the IEDC has proposed improvements to the immediately impacted roads, for which the IEDC will pay 100% of the related improvement costs.

“It gets close to a total of 3,000 workers a day that it will take to build the Lilly site,” Parr shared. “To get those folks to and from, it’s going to take intersection improvements on all of the [impacted] roads as well as temporary traffic signals. There’s going to be coordination with the INDOT because all of the traffic flow ends up on a state road to leave the site. There’s a bridge replacement and a small structure replacement that IEDC plans to pay for, and the county has reached an agreement with IEDC so that we can hire our inspection team to oversee the construction and inspection, and IEDC will then reimburse the cost that the county incurs for that inspection work.”

The Boone County Commissioners submitted the following statement on how they collectively perceive the impact that the Eli Lilly project will have on the county and throughout its six communities:

“The Boone County Commissioners believe the addition of Eli Lilly’s research and production facility to the economy of Boone County can and will have many positive effects. We welcome high-paying jobs such as the ones that will be offered by Eli Lilly at this new facility and recognize that Eli Lilly has been a long-time Indiana company. While we continue to work through the challenges brought on by the construction of said facility, we are mindful of the economic opportunities this facility will bring and are excited for the future of Boone County’s economy and workforce, with Eli Lilly as a part of it.”

For more information on the Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace (LEAP) Lebanon Innovation District, visit boonecountyinnovation.com.