By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer
— Bricks and other debris lay behind a barbed-wire fence at an empty building south of downtown
The structure is large — 64,000 square feet.
It is old — almost 40 years.
It is what legislators and economic development officials call a “dinosaur.”
Set back from Home Avenue, the building is one of several structures in Howard County that could become easier to sell if Gov. Mitch Daniels signs a bill making tax breaks easier to obtain for “dinosaur buildings,” government officials say.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. maintains a database listing empty or under-used factories and other large buildings around the state that are for sale.
Eleven buildings in Kokomo are listed on the website. Two of them meet the current size requirement to be eligible for a tax incentive to sell old, empty buildings and avoid blight.
The Dinosaur Tax Credit Bill, co-authored by Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, downsizes several requirements that have to be met for companies to earn what’s known as the industrial recovery income tax credit.
It requires local officials to designate a facility as an “industrial recovery site” and work with state officials at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to promote the site.
But it reduces the number of years, from 20 to 15, in which a vacant industrial facility must have been in service, and it reduces the percentage of a facility, from 75 percent to 50 percent, that must not be utilized for the facility to be considered vacant.
It also cuts, from two years to one year, the length of time the facility must be vacant to be eligible.
The most significant change is the size of the structure. The bill moves the bar from 250,000 square feet down to 50,000 square feet.
Clere said reduction is critical.
“We’re sharpening an existing tool,” Clere said. “Because the credit has
only been available for very large buildings, few have qualified.”
The bill passed through the House with bipartisan support on a 98-0 vote in February. But a Senate committee amended the bill earlier this month to push the size of the structure from the House’s original 25,000 square feet up to 100,000 square feet.
The House and Senate signed off on the 50,000-square-foot compromise
the day before the session ended.
Supporters say the bill is not a miracle cure for communities burdened with the remnants of long-gone manufacturing jobs.
It’s more like what Nolan “Skip” Kuker, an Indiana Economic Development Association board member from Logansport, calls “one more arrow for our quiver.”
The legislation is aimed at encouraging companies to invest in buildings that require significant rehabilitation to bring them back into use. There may be more than 100 industrial sites eligible under the bill’s language, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Changes to the tax incentive would alleviate a program that has often been too cumbersome to be effective, said Jeb Conrad, president and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.
“That’s part of the reason why people don’t like to do it as much,” he said.
Blair West, a spokeswoman for the Indiana
Economic Development Corp., said there have been many cases in which other incentives were better options than the Dinosaur Tax Credit.
Local economic development agencies, before the recession, often did not like to advertise they had a lot of empty factories in their towns, Conrad said, because it would broadcast an image of blight.
“Before the recession, there just weren’t as many,” he said. “But now there’s a few more on the marketplace.”
Conrad knew of about five buildings that would qualify for the Dinosaur Tax Credit under the current requirements.
He did not know an exact number for how many buildings would qualify under the revised program.
“Oh my gosh, I don’t know — a lot,” he said. “We have a pretty good pool of those that are in that [new range]. We have a pretty good pool between 30,000 and 60,000 [square] feet.
“It certainly would open the door for re-purposing buildings. This is a good thing.”
• CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden contributed to this report.
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached
at 765-454-8570 or