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River Ridge sees record interest from businesses, largest single investment

The building that houses the River Ridge Development Authority in Southern Indiana
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
The River Ridge Development Authority in Southern Indiana

What started more than 20 years ago as a way to replace lost revenue from the shuttered Indiana Army Ammunition Plant in Charlestown has become an economic driver for Southern Indiana and the surrounding region.

At its peak, the ammunition plant in Charlestown employed around 27,000 people. Plans for River Ridge Commerce Center started in the late 1990s with the formation of the River Ridge Development Authority, to make up for that loss.

Officials say they’re on the way, with more than 18,000 regional jobs reported last year due to activity at the commerce center. That’s led to around $800 million in disposable income to the area.

“So that disposable income obviously goes into people going out buying cars, buying homes, buying clothes, buying groceries,” said Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority. “And the more disposable income you have, you're going to attract more and more retail commercial type operations.”

There’s been international interest in the Southern Indiana business park, with record activity over the past 18 months, Acy said.

Most recently, River Ridge announced commitments for a production facility for The Cheesecake Factory, and an $800 million investment from Canadian Solar Inc. for plans on a solace cell production facility — the largest single investment in the business park’s history.

Acy said this could put River Ridge on the radar for other companies dealing in renewable resources. He said there’s been interest related to other clean energy initiatives.

“We're already getting some looks,” he said. “And [with] this, it's really nice and encouraging to have a project of this magnitude announced to be our first real green energy related project.”

According to its 2022 annual report, River Ridge was home to more than 70 businesses last year, and produced an estimated more than $2.7 billion in economic output last year. It generated around $43.6 million in state and local tax revenue.

Acy said progress has exceeded what he and other officials expected when he joined River Ridge 16 years ago.

“I think we had one new industrial building that had been completed and a couple of others that were planned,” he said. “But now, we've got a multitude of buildings and over 50 million square feet of industrial space [with] some pretty high profile companies here. And then the solar company puts us on the radar screen in a lot of different ways.”

A little less than two-thirds of the 6,000-acre business park is either built out or committed.

Growth at River Ridge has spurred new development in the area — from housing to restaurants to medical facilities. Last year, the Clark County government relocated most of its offices to a new space at River Ridge.

Acy said there are other factors contributing to the population and economic growth in Southern Indiana, but he believes many people are also relocating to the area specifically to work at River Ridge.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.