INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 17, 2015) - The City-County Council Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee has approved the use of tax dollars to fund the expansion of Angie's List on Indianapolis' near east side. Council members sent the $18.5 million measure back to committee earlier this month for further review, making this the second time the committee has voted in favor of the proposal.
The full council is expected to vote on the proposal at the March 30 meeting.
The money would be used to renovate and repurpose the former Ford manufacturing facility on East Washington Street. It would also include the construction of a 500 space parking garage. The building is currently being used as a supply warehouse for Indianapolis Public Schools. The plan calls for nearly seven million dollars to go towards IPS relocation costs.
Some residents and council members, however, question what would happen if Angie's List closed or was purchased by another company, given the fact that Angie's List has never turned a profit. District 19 City County Councilor Jeff Miller says the money isn't intended to help the company's bottom line.
“We hear a lot of people say, ‘This is a bailout of Angie’s List. Eighteen million dollars. Why are you doing it?’ You know what? If that’s what it was, I wouldn't support it, but instead, it is a lot of things. Number one, it’s $7 million to IPS to relocate them out of the old Ford building, where it’s just dripping water on supplies. It’s a terrible building. When do we ever do anything for IPS? Well, now IPS can build a new warehouse and fully relocate out of the Ford building.”
Angie's List Chief Operating Officer Mark Howell says the company has more than 20 years of success behind it and is still in great financial shape. Tuesday, he released the following statement in reaction to the council committee's vote:
"We appreciate that the committee has voted to support our campus expansion proposal. We have been working for many years to bring jobs to the Near East Side and help transform the neighborhood at the same time. This project is an important next step in the process. We look forward to the full city/county council vote on March 30."
This time, says Miller, the committee has more information about what would happen if Angie's List began struggling at some point down the road.
“We’ve looked heavily at what would happen ‘if.’ One of the reason we discussed this again for an hour is, what if they don’t meet the job commitments? What if they get bought? What if they relocate? What if they go bankrupt? We feel those are critical to protect the tax dollars for the city.”
In addition to the city's contribution of $18.5 million, Angie's List has also vowed to invest another $40 million in the new headquarters and hire 1,000 new employees during the next five years.
Miller says if all the job requirements are met, another $750,000 to $1 million in local income taxes will be pumped into the local economy. That's in addition to the $1 million in property taxes Angie's List is expected to spend.
“At one point at least, 59% of the homes were vacant or abandoned. So every other home was abandoned. It’s crazy," says Miller. "This type of redevelopment will really help that area as well as bring in $2 million a year back into property tax and local income tax.”
Supporters hope pushing the project forward will mean Angie's List stays in the Indianapolis community for many years to come, while those in opposition to the proposal still question whether Angie's List will remain a viable company in the years to come.