Creating Jobs in Southern Indiana: River Ridge
Joe and his staff worked closely with the River Ridge Development Authority for more than a year to resolve a longstanding dispute with the Army and allow River Ridge to acquire hundreds of acres of high-value property that will help create more jobs and opportunities in Clark County. In October 2015, Joe welcomed the Army officially transferring major land parcels to River Ridge.
With negotiations to resolve community concerns about an old Army landfill stalled for years, Joe began working in September 2014 with the River Ridge Development Authority on a new round of talks with the Army. With Joe’s help, River Ridge had an opportunity for the first time to share their concerns with the defense oversight committees in Congress, and in the following months Joe continued to facilitate meetings among key stakeholders to narrow down issues and address each side’s concerns.
Joe called for and convened a meeting in April 2015 at the River Ridge Commerce Center with federal, state, and local stakeholders to discuss the status and future of the River Ridge Commerce Center. Following this meeting, he facilitated talks among River Ridge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to address concerns about potential public health and environmental risks associated with the landfill.
Joe believes that government works best when we get all the right people in a room together talking through problems and solutions directly. Day after day, week after week, he worked with the Army and River Ridge to put the best interests of our community first and reach a resolution.
Through the negotiations, Joe secured assurances from the Army that it would stand by a commitment to protect the local community from risks posed by the landfill, now and for decades to come. Then, in late September 2015, Joe participated in the River Ridge board meeting to go over outstanding issues as the board neared agreement on approving the land transfer. The River Ridge Development Authority board ultimately passed a resolution approving the land transfer.
Joe said, “I’m the hired help and was pleased I could help facilitate negotiations and play a role in making sure River Ridge could attract new business and proceed with projects that will fuel economic growth. Over the past year, I have been grateful to work with extraordinary partners, including River Ridge, Army headquarters, the Army Corps, and IDEM, who all worked tirelessly to ensure a positive outcome. ”
Jerry Acy, River Ridge Development Authority, Executive Director, said October 12, “Today marks a major milestone in the transfer of Army property to the River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA) for the purpose of replacing the loss of economic activity as a result of the shutdown of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. We are grateful for all the efforts by Senator Joe Donnelly.”
The final transfer of land, which Donnelly also helped facilitate, from the Army to River Ridge was completed in late September of 2016.
Joe said, “River Ridge is an example of how we can improve our economy when we focus on solving problems by working together. I got involved after years of stalled negotiations between River Ridge and the Army and was proud to bring key stakeholders together to ensure we got this to the finish line. These are exciting times in Clark County, and River Ridge is a hub of economic growth that will continue to bring more jobs and opportunities for hardworking Hoosier families in southern Indiana.”
Acy said, “Senator Donnelly was instrumental in assisting River Ridge in securing a positive outcome on several outstanding issues with the Army. Those issues were delaying the transfer of some very prime developable property near the new I-265 interchange and potentially could have also delayed this last conveyance. It was critical for River Ridge to obtain ownership of all those parcels in order to continue our path of new developments and job creation for our region.”
In the News
WHAS: River Ridge (October 2015)
Louisville Courier Journal: River Ridge gains new land (October 2015)
By: Sheldon S. Shafer
The remaining land at the vast, former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant in Clark County is being transferred to the River Ridge Commerce Center for new business that is expected to generate thousands of new jobs.
A schedule for the land swap was announced at a news conference Monday morning at the commerce center in Jeffersonville.
The business park operators are getting an initial 830 acres immediately and another roughly 285 acres by next June. That would mean the federal government's and the Army's relinquishing of the one-time 6,000-acre site that for decades was a primary installation for the manufacture, storage and distribution of ammunition, including explosives.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., attended the press event at River Ridge to announce the planned land transfer—an acknowledgment that federal officials have designated the land environmentally suited for transfer.
Donnelly's office said the transfer plan ends a "long-standing land dispute." The Army officials presented River Ridge with the deed to several land parcels, including a landfill that has proved controversial allowing River Ridge to move forward with significant, new development on prime land.
The press conference attendees included: River Ridge board president Mark Robinson; River Ridge Development Authority Executive Director Jerry Acy; Col. Christopher Beck, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District; Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, and Peggy Dorsey of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Donnelly's office said in a release that the Hoosier senator had been a key leader amid "intense negotiations" to bring together the federal, state and local officials "to revive stalled discussions and address community concerns," related largely to safety and environmental issues involving the landfill.
Donnelly said the land transfer "will help bring more jobs and opportunity to Clark County, spurring continued economic growth in a way that protects the health and safety of Hoosiers."
Acy said that the transfer of the Army property to the River Ridge Development Authority "for the purpose of replacing the loss of economic activity, as a result of the shutdown of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant."
He credited Donnelly and Indiana U.S. Rep. Todd Young and their staffs of helping to move the land transfer off center.
Acy said in an interview that the business park, before the latest acquisition, spanned about 4,800 acres and has about 40 tenants. He said about 750 acres have been sold or committed to occupancy. The providers of the park's roughly 7,000 jobs include Amazon, Tenneco, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, American Fuji Steel and Autoneum.
The River Ridge Development Authority was set up in 1998 by the Clark County commissioners. It signed a master lease with the Army in 2003 and received the first parcel under a land transfer in 2005.
Acy said the 830 acres newly in hand include 145 acres near Charlestown on the north end of the former Army plant with the rest of the property on the southern end of the site. Acy said the 830 acres required some environmental remediation but that it has been declared fit for transfer.
Acy said the authority has had "significant success in locating major companies," resulting in the 7,000 new jobs and generating $1.3 billion in total economic impact for the Hoosier state.
He added that the 830 acres "will greatly enhance our marketing efforts, since almost 80 percent of those acres are located between Ind. 62 and the new Interstate-265 interchange scheduled to open by October 2016," in connection with the new Ohio River Bridges East End Crossing.
He noted that a ground breaking is planned later this week on major new highway improvements designed to improve access to the commerce center and its connections to Ind. 62 and a new road linking the center with the bridge and interstate interchange.
Donnelly worked with the River Ridge officials for more than a year to pave the way for the latest land transfer.
After stalled negotiations and repeated attempts to resolve community concerns about the landfill through federal legislation, Donnelly set up talks with the Army in September 2014. River Ridge had an opportunity for the first time at that point to share its environmental concerns with the congressional defense oversight committees.
This past spring, Donnelly convened another meeting at the River Ridge Commerce Center with federal, state and local stakeholders to discuss environmental issues related chiefly to the landfill.
In September, the Army officials agreed to stand by a commitment to protect for the local community from any long-term risk posed by the landfill. Soon thereafter, the River Ridge board passed a resolution approving the land transfer.
News and Tribune: UPDATE: River Ridge signs deal netting nearly 900 acres for development (October 2015)
By: Elizabeth Beilman
JEFFERSONVILLE — It's just empty land and some trees now, but the acreage transferred Monday to River Ridge Commerce Center should explode with development in the coming years.
"We have a lot of work to do relative to building the roads and getting the utility infrastructure to these [acres], but the River Ridge staff and all the support personnel and entities that we have, we’re up to the task and we will do it," Executive Director Jerry Acy said.
River Ridge staff and board members signed a deed conveyance of almost 900 acres Monday morning, marking a new phase of significant movement at the commerce center.
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District Commander Col. Christopher Beck, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore and other local officials joined River Ridge representatives at the intersection of Logistics Avenue and Trey Street — the cusp of new territory required that developers are scrambling to scoop up.
"This is about jobs and jobs and jobs," Donnelly said.
The transfer is the culmination of years of negotiations between the Army and River Ridge with particular focus on the future of a hazardous waste landfill. Donnelly and U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., served as liaisons between the two entities to further these negotiations.
"These individuals have worked tirelessly and tenaciously with incredible professional knowledge of how government works throughout many layers and levels and through a true sense of professionalism without whom most likely we would not be gathered here today," Mark Robinson, president of the River Ridge Development Authority, said.
Beck said it was a privilege to present the deed to River Ridge staff.
"We are just appreciative of the opportunity to support the economic development of this region and know that this transfer will further facilitate that development," he said.
Acy mentioned a handful of ongoing projects that the Army transfer of land frees up for development — about 150 acres over three parcels River Ridge is negotiating or may negotiate to sell — and "significant interest" on other newly acquired acreage. He couldn't reveal tenants but mentioned companies including Crossdock Development and Capstone Development that will construct buildings.
"So, stand by," he said.
About 650 of those 850 acres are near the future heavy haul road and certified megasite. Acy said River Ridge is planning development up to the edge of the megasite.
Moore, who had just come from a public announcement on the Ohio River Bridges Project, said he is "tickled to death" to be mayor of Jeffersonville.
"Only thing left to do, Jerry, is who's going to be out here next?" Moore said.
Robinson called the event significant "in the life and history" of River Ridge and surrounding municipalities.
"Some time ago, many thought that this could not be a day of accomplishment," he said.
River Ridge staff and board members, advised by environmental counsel, did not want to take ownership of a parcel containing the decommissioned landfill without further assurance they would not be liable for any potential pollution or responsible for cleanup.
The Army, until recently, "was confident that River Ridge could have the landfill, that the discussions and questions about potential problems in the future would be taken care of without a problem," Donnelly said in a phone interview Friday.
But the Army has since agreed to continue maintaining the landfill and any potential cleanup of hazardous material, and River Ridge will be protected from environmental liability.
"I think they just really needed to talk it out with one another to see what their concerns were," Donnelly said.
In October 2014, River Ridge finally met with the Army and other entities to air concerns in person.
"It was almost trying to get comfortable together with one another in the same room, and I thought that was one of the most critical elements ..." Donnelly said, adding that he acted as mediator.
In April, Donnelly convened another meeting to reaffirm the Army's commitment to maintaining the landfill even after River Ridge takes ownership of it. From there, Donnelly and his staff spoke weekly and in some cases daily to finalize these negotiations.
"For me, personally, I'm the hired help, so I work for everyone in Indiana," he said. "And down in the Jeffersonville area, they said, 'Look, this is absolutely critical to us.'"
Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote an excerpt of the committee's report that appeared in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act reiterating the Army's and River Ridge's obligations to one another — transferring land to the commerce center to be reimbursed at fair market value, the act states.
"[Being on the committee] gives me a chance to be dealing with the Army on a constant basis and ... put us in a nice sweet spot to get this done," he said.
"For me, the winners are going to be all the individuals who have good jobs there, all of the new jobs that are created, the moms and dads who are going to have a chance to get a new home or be able to move into the Southern Indiana communities down there because they have a good job to go to."
Louisville Business First: River Ridge takes control of last parcel from U.S. Army (September 2016)
By: Marty Finley
The River Ridge Development Authority now has full control of the 6,000-acre business park in Southern Indiana.
The U.S. Army has transferred ownership of the final pieces of land at River Ridge Commerce Center to the authority, which owns and manages the massive park that runs along Ind. 62 in Jeffersonville north to Charlestown.
The River Ridge Development Authority now has full control of the 6,000-acre business… more
RIVER RIDGE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Before being set aside for redevelopment, the site was home to the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.
The transfer, announced today, was for a little more than 293 acres, said River Ridge executive director Jerry Acy.
The turnover of ownership has been years in the making as Indiana lawmakers intervened on behalf of River Ridge to get the land transferred for economic development. Much of the legal wrangling centered around operation of the landfill inside the park, which also was transferred by the Army to the River Ridge Development Authority.
“River Ridge is an example of how we can improve our economy when we focus on solving problems by working together," U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said in a statement about the transfer.
Donnelly described River Ridge as a "hub of economic growth that will continue to bring more jobs and opportunities for hardworking Hoosier families in Southern Indiana.”
Acy said in a statement that Donnelly and other state lawmakers played a crucial role in the transfer by helping solve the legal issues tied to the land.
"Those issues were delaying the transfer of some very prime developable property near the new I-265 interchange and potentially could have also delayed this last conveyance," Acy said in the statement. "It was critical for River Ridge to obtain ownership of all those parcels in order to continue our path of new developments and job creation for our region.”
Today's announcement follows the transfer of more than 800 acres by the Army to River Ridge about a year ago. To date, about 1,000 acres have been sold for development at River Ridge, Acy said.