Lippert won't build $20 million Goshen plant

IMAGE PROVIDED This provided map shows the approximately 154-acre property recently put up for sale by Lippert Components Inc. The property is located at 16629 C.R. 36, Goshen, just east of the railroad tracks and southeast of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

GOSHEN — Plans by Lippert Components Inc. to construct a $20 million facility on the city’s southeast side have apparently been scrapped, according to city officials who have knowledge about the project.

During a meeting of the Goshen City Council Tuesday evening, councilman Adam Scharf, D-District 5, expressed surprise at recently noticing a “For Sale” sign posted in front of the 154-acre Lippert-owned property located at 16629 C.R. 36, just east of the railroad tracks and southeast of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

ANNEXATION WAS PLANNED

Central to Scharf’s surprise was the fact that council members back in March of 2018 had approved annexation of the C.R. 36 property after being informed of Lippert’s plans to invest at least $20 million into the construction of a new plant at the site focused on light manufacturing, research and development. The company builds components for the recreational vehicle industry.

At the time of the annexation, Lippert's plans for the property involved construction of one $20 million facility at the site, with the potential for up to two additional facilities down the line. Plans for the new facility included the purchase of several million dollars worth of equipment, such as high-tech laser cutters, automated packaging machines and welding automation with robotics.

Following its construction, the company then planned to transfer about two-thirds of its workforce, or about 550 employees, from its nearby Plant 45, located at 2703 College Ave., to the new facility, after which the old plant would be utilized primarily as a warehouse for the storage of raw materials.

“My eyebrows raised when I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign at the Lippert property,” Scharf said of the discovery. “As we’re all keenly aware here, that was a pretty significant issue, and lots went into that, and obviously it was somewhat fraught. That seems like a pretty major development that I imagine we’ll be needing to keep abreast of.”

As part of the annexation agreement, Lippert had agreed to cover the initial cost of all necessary right of way acquisition, design, field investigation, geotechnical work, permitting and construction of the proposed infrastructure. The city in turn agreed to reimburse Lippert for those expenses through the use of tax increment financing revenues generated by the creation of a new TIF district for the area.

With plans for the new facility now scrapped, Scharf expressed concern that there could potentially be some unforeseen financial implications involving the new TIF and other area projects and developments connected to it.

“The but-for test in that TIF is in full effect, especially in absence of that target project with Lippert,” Scharf said. “That’s of significant consequence both short term and in the 25-year, or whatever it was, timeframe of that TIF district. So I think that will be something that probably we should keep an eye on and keep talking about.”

MAYOR WAS INFORMED

According to Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, he and Goshen Community Development Director Mark Brinson were contacted by Lippert several weeks ago and informed of the potential sale of the C.R. 36 property, though he decided to hold off on disclosing those plans to the council until a formal statement by Lippert had been released.

“We were planning on giving the council an update, but due to the fact that when we give you an update, it’s very public, we were waiting to find out exactly what Lippert was doing before we made public statements,” Stutsman told the council. “So that was why we didn’t relay anything over the past couple of weeks.”

Stutsman was able to confirm that Lippert has no plans to build the plant in another location, and has simply scrapped the project altogether.

“Lippert really hasn’t made a full statement. We’re dealing with new people now around this. It’s not the same people that were involved when we went through the whole process. But they told us they are not building this somewhere else,” Stutsman said. “They’re just not building it right now.”

Stutsman did note, however, that all previously-agreed upon conditions related to Lippert’s obligations concerning the annexation agreement will stay with the property, and thus be the responsibility of whoever ends up taking ownership of the property.

“The obligations we created with Lippert are actually with the property, so if they sell that to another company, they still are tied to the same obligations of extending city sewer and water, and utilities,” Stutsman said. “Then the TIF agreement would then kick in for whoever that is for the repayment.”

Calls to Lippert seeking comment on the planned sale of the C.R. 36 property were not returned by Thursday’s publication deadline.

John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN

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