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Elkhart County Commissioners approve zoning change needed for ‘Project Winnie’

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - It looks like Elkhart County government is a single step away from finalizing an incentive package designed to lure Project Winnie to town.

The Elkhart County Commissioners today approved a zoning change needed for the project and the county council meets this Saturday to consider the final piece of the puzzle--a seven year property tax phase in.

Project Winnie would be located to the north of the Indiana Toll Road between County Roads 17 and 19.

Plans call for the construction of a five-story regional distribution center with high tech robotics.

The project would bring up investment of up to $250 million and it calls for hiring up to 1,800 employees in distribution, management, and maintenance.

Elkhart County residents were sparse and speechless at today’s commissioner’s meeting. Not a soul spoke at a public hearing on the zoning change, although one commissioner expressed concern that the company behind the project remains anonymous.

“I just don’t like the fact that we’re not being transparent with the public,” said Commissioner Brad Rogers.

“I hope two weeks from now I can tell you that this one is identified and put to bed, and we’ll move forward with the project then,” said Chris Stager with the Elkhart County Economic Development Corporation. “They’ve chosen, I think, to remain out of public’s eye until they have all the elements they need to have a successful project. They prefer not to be affiliated or associated with one that doesn’t maybe come to fruition.”

Stager says the project is a good fit for the Elkhart County economy because of its high use of automation and because it is not RV related. “Make no secret, we’re very proud of our RV heritage but you know, I think having a diverse economy is certainly desirable for those times that when the economy doesn’t favor maybe buying an RV.”

The company is apparently considering Elkhart and Grand Rapids as possible sites for Winnie with a final site decision expected to be made by October 1.

“This is very aggressive pace for a project of this size. I think the anticipated completion date would be January of 2023, so 16 months, that’s a pretty aggressive timeline to build anything these days.”

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