Newport Chemical Depot, Indiana Redevelopment Profile
The Vermillion Rise Mega Park is an industrial park that supports six companies employing 130 people, along with a bat habitat and walking trails.
Newport Chemical Depot Today
The Newport Chemical Depot has been redeveloped into Vermillion Rise Mega Park, an office and industrial park covering 7,100 acres with 2,806-acre deed restricted areas to support bat habitat for the federally endangered Indiana Bat. To date, the Vermillion Rise Mega Park is home to six companies including General Machine and Saw, Newport Pallet, Gypsum Express, Security Transport, J & R Used Tire Service and Scott Pet Foods. They employ 130 people on the former base, about 19 percent of the civilian jobs lost when the base closed.
A lease of 3,500 acres for agriculture helps to support related industries including fertilizer, seed, diesel fuel, and equipment maintenance. Hunting leases also help to support local businesses in the tourism sector.
The Newport Chemical Depot Redevelopment Authority (NeCDRA) has pursued large infrastructure projects and these activities have created a considerable number of construction jobs. Specific projects include a $2.4 million waterline project, and a $3 million shell building project. Outside the Park, Duke Energy invested $12 million to construct a new 230-69 kV substation that will provide the electric power for future development needs. All of these projects provide much needed employment in the county.
In 1941, the U.S. Army took possession of 21,486 acres and established the Wabash River Ordnance Works. Eventually the property became known as the U.S. Army Newport Chemical Depot. During World War II, the Army used it for a number of purposes, including the manufacture of RDX, TNT and heavy water. The mission was later expanded to the manufacture, weaponization and storage of VX nerve agent.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of Newport Chemical Depot, resulting in the loss of over 675 jobs. The Depot had been the largest employer in Vermillion County, a rural county with a population of approximately 16,000. During the neutralization of the VX agent, there were over 1,000 people on site.
Upon announcement of the base closure, local, regional and state-level representatives along with the public met to discuss how to redevelop the depot. The result was the creation of the NeCDRA, which consisted of members of the local community. During the planning process, the NeCDRA established three committees that studied and provided input on: 1) land use, 2) infrastructure, and 3) economic development. Ensuring that voices from all sectors were heard helped create support for the reuse plan’s four criteria: job creation, environment quality, fiscal responsibility, and economic viability. The plan consists of areas for business and technology, natural areas and open space, agriculture and forestry, parkland, and commercial uses. An area is also dedicated to conservation uses, supporting an endangered bat species.
Another key to success has been partnerships. Duke Energy agreed to update the electrical service within the Vermillion Rise Mega Park, and also partnered with the Authority to promote the park as a Duke Energy Build Ready Site. This effort demonstrated that a 300-acre parcel near the main entrance to the park was “shovel-ready.” A more recent partnership with Duke Energy involves an agreement whereby the park will serve as staging areas for Duke’s Electric System Damage Restoration Program. This arrangement helps the area recover from storms and will ensure priority restoration for the park.
The Duke Energy Build Ready Site initiative helped to create another partnership with Garmong Construction. With a Build Ready Site identified, the NeCDRA negotiated a development with Garmong Construction to build a 50,000 square foot shell building. Garmong financed and constructed the shell. The Authority is paying the carrying costs and serving as the marketing agent.
Updated October 2020