LAPORTE — Ground was broken Monday on a 150,000-square-foot industrial building to house companies wanting to operate in LaPorte.

The Qualls Development Group metal panel structure will offer space for lease at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park. It is designed so it can be doubled in size for additional tenants if full occupancy is reached.

The hope is to have at least one company ready to move in once the outer shell of the building is finished in the summer, said Bert Cook, executive director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership.

Cook said the building has room for one or more firms depending on size, and the inside will be finished later to the specifications of companies signing a lease.

“We’ll continue to market this over the next few months and by the time the building is constructed we’d love to see tenants in place,” he said.

Mayor Tom Dermody said the facility will solve the problem of companies wanting to locate in LaPorte but going elsewhere due to a shortage of existing industrial space.

“Obviously, people want businesses here. People want jobs and if you don’t have a place to put them, they’re not going to come,” he said. “Now, they’ll have that opportunity."

The building is going up on 23 acres in an expanded area of the park equipped with roads and other infrastructure in 2016.

The dirt being moved is owned by Qualls Development Group, which leases industrial space to companies at four different locations in LaPorte, Rolling Prairie and Knox.

Bob Qualls Jr. said the facility will be suitable for manufacturing and logistics type operations.

He said the company has never put up a structure on spec — hoping tenants will come later — but chose to now in response to expressed interest in one.

“We’re hearing good things already before we turn the first shovel. We’re excited about the possibilities,” Qualls said.

The company was founded in 1992 when Bob Qualls Sr. purchased the old American Home Foods building at Indiana 2 and Fail Road on the city’s east side. The 400,000 square facility is now home to Harper Collins Publishing. Other buildings owned by the firm include one on Fail Road occupied by Alpha Baking Co.

“We have a lot of good tenants who’ve been with us for the duration of time,” Qualls Sr. said.

Dermody said the building is part of his strategy for increasing LaPorte’s population from 22,000 to 30,000 in 10 years by creating enough new jobs, desirable housing and other amenities to keep and attract new residents.
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