TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute International Airport could be among the big winners if retail giant Meijer builds a new store on the city’s east side.
The location Meijer is considering is within a 5,000-acre economic development zone operated by the airport authority. The zone operates much like a tax increment finance district (TIF), meaning new property tax generated in the area is captured by the airport for future infrastructure or other economic development projects.
The six-person airport board, whose members are appointed by city and county elected officials, controls how tax increment dollars are spent within the zone, said Bill Foraker, board president. The board is being asked to spend some of its existing economic development cash to move power lines that are in the way of a possible Meijer store, he said. The board is likely to approve that, he said.
“We certainly want to cooperate,” Foraker said in a telephone interview Thursday. “We’re certainly not going to stand in the way of the Meijer development.”
Because Meijer would generate new property tax revenue, the airport authority would essentially be repaid for that investment, he said. It is not yet clear how much moving the lines will cost, Foraker said.
“At least [moving the lines] has some return on investment for the airport,” Foraker said.
Meijer is likely considering the east-side location, in part, because of an intergovernmental agreement signed in January to extend a sanitary sewer line to the east side of Indiana 46/U.S. 40 to provide service for that portion of the airport’s economic zone.
The line, expected to cost about $700,000, is being paid for by the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission, which manages the TIF district on the west side of the highway, including Walmart. The airport authority, in turn, has agreed to reimburse the commission for the expense out of new property taxes generated by the project, said Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Redevelopment Department.
“I suppose that’s one of the reasons Meijer has an interest,” Lambert said Thursday.
The Redevelopment Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor and the City Council, is also paying to extend New Margaret Drive across Indiana 46/U.S. 40 for 500 feet, Lambert said. Money for that construction became available when some other New Margaret Avenue development construction came in “under budget,” he said. Redevelopment will not be reimbursed for that expense, Lambert said.
In the bigger picture, the airport board is interested in drawing new investment inside the fence of the airport itself, which is also part of the economic development zone, Foraker said. One area of keen interest is unmanned flying systems, a big use for which is in agriculture. Eventually extending New Margaret so that it runs parallel to the airport’s longest runway could help bring such investment, he said.
“We would like to be a test center for those kinds of activities,” Foraker said. “We’re kind of looking longer term for development on the airport proper. It’s kind of a Field of Dreams thing. If you build it, they will come.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@