Nov 02, 2022

IEDC’s Strategic Sites Inventory Program Zooms in on Tech Mega-park Sites

Rapid technological advancements and a new push for domestic semiconductor production are fueling unprecedented demand for hyper-scale economic development sites across the country. It’s a trend Indiana is well-positioned to capitalize on thanks to a strategic pivot in what was already one of the most comprehensive site inventory programs in the country.


“Indiana had the foresight and strategic vision to canvas all 92 counties,” said Victor Leotta, whose company, Leotta Location + Design, does site-identification work for clients across the country. Indiana is one of 13 states that has hired LL+D, but it’s the first state to invest in such a thorough, statewide search, Leotta said, noting that most clients want their searches confined to certain counties or transportation corridors.”  



In 2021, newly appointed Indiana Secretary of Commerce Bradley Chambers gave Indiana’s four-year-old Strategic Sites Inventory program a new mandate: find top-quality sites of more than 1,000 acres that can satisfy the growing demand for hyper-scale tech parks.

The technology-sector-based mega-sites that Chambers wants to identify are vital assets in the competition for high-growth companies in innovative technology sectors such as life sciences/biotech, agtech, microelectronics, clean tech, and electrification. And finding the giant sites is a natural extension of Indiana’s SSI program, which is unique in its focus on all 92 counties.

Indiana’s comprehensive approach is borne out of a desire to make sure the entire state benefits from IEDC’s business-attraction efforts. 

“Our mission is to distribute these anchor projects throughout the state,” said Chambers, and part of his strategic plan to increase Indiana’s focus on site identification. 

By the time Secretary Chambers asked the SSI program to identify tech mega-park sites, the LL+D and IEDC team had already found more than 1,700 potential sites, large and small, across all of Indiana’s counties. That gave them a head start on identifying the mega-sites. They’ve already found 69 such sites spread across the state and expect to narrow that number soon. 

The goal is to quickly bring forward sites throughout the state that can be presented as winning options when IEDC pursues major economic development prizes. 

The number of opportunities in the market is so high that Chambers expects the search for top-quality mega-park sites to continue indefinitely. “As soon as we identify our first and best opportunities, we’ll continue to identify more,” he said.

There’s a huge need to pre-identify sites for headquarters and large advanced manufacturing operations, Chambers said, because of the sheer volume of companies looking for sites and the specific nature of what they require.

IEDC sees growing demand—and interest in Indiana—from several industry/product clusters, including life sciences, agtech, clean tech, cybersecurity/critical defense, lithium batteries, superconductors and microelectronics, autonomous vehicles, genetics/genomics, and robotics. 

To compete at the highest level today requires checking all the boxes for well-connected sites, and not just some of them, Chambers said. Pre-identified sites must be close to population centers of at least 50,000 people, academic/research institutions, multi-modal transportation, fiber connectivity, and existing industry. 

Identifying the sites is a mix of art and science. Using GIS mapping and data technology, LL&D searches for greenfield sites that match core suitability criteria. The result is a color-coded “heat map” that identifies favorable sites. That map is the starting point for a more labor-intensive evaluation of potential sites that involves collaboration with local officials, Wade said.

“This isn’t the state trying to control what’s going to happen in communities, but wanting to work with multiple local parties to identify opportunities and bring forward solutions together,” said Chambers. “It takes a lot of people to do this, and it takes time.”

Because of the sheer size of the tech mega-park sites and their proximity requirements, not every community in the state will qualify, but Leotta said not to discount Indiana’s comprehensive approach to site identification.

Smaller sites that don’t meet all of the requirements are vital to realizing the state’s vision for creating tech mega-parks, Leotta said. “You have to have the smaller sites to serve the mega-parks.” 

When it comes to pre-identifying sites large and small, Indiana isn’t leaving much to chance, Leotta said. Other states will identify sites for the locals and then essentially walk away, but Indiana’s approach is to stay involved until sites are brought to market, he said. “Indiana never takes its foot off the gas.”