Five candidates for governor in the 2024 primary met at a forum hosted by the law firm Dentons, part of its annual legislative conference at the Indiana Convention Center. Topics included the LEAP District.

Landowners and local officials have complained for months about the process behind the approval of the LEAP District, a large high-tech park planned for Boone County. The project is meant to mimic similar developments in other states such as Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many living nearby have told I-Team 8 preliminary work already has negatively impacted their well water. A group opposing the project released a report earlier this week which calculated the project would require up to 100 million gallons of water a day, though Lebanon’s mayor has disputed the report’s findings.

As part of a broader discussion about economic development policy, Chambers said he stands behind his work on LEAP. He said Indiana needs to compete not just with other states, but also with other countries for high-wage jobs of the future.

“We would be pouring concrete and erecting steel and hiring high-wage jobs for Intel if we had LEAP two years ago,” Chambers said. “We have to play economic offense because everyone around us is, and to keep these kids here, we need to recruit high-wage industry.”

Chambers’ rivals all said they agree with the idea behind LEAP but they disagree with the process behind it. Eric Doden, himself a former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, said the IEDC should not act as a developer and should not buy land with taxpayer money. Curtis Hill went a step further, saying the IEDC has acted as a shadow government in recent years. He said Indiana should double down on what makes its own economy unique and attractive rather than trying to mimic other states. Suzanne Crouch said the LEAP uproar illustrates the need to work continuously with local economic development organizations to ensure the local relationships needed for a LEAP-style project are already in place. Mike Braun said the concerns over the LEAP District’s impacts on water quality show the need to make sure economic development officials have investigated every possible problem before they proceed.

Please follow and like us: