Between the sounds of crickets chirping in long grass near the interstate, the whoosh of cars and trucks drowns out most of the ambiance Petersburg, Indiana can offer for the casual passer-by.
Out here, it’s easy to see there’s not much to see.
But 4,000 acres of farm could someday be the foundation of big business in Pike County, and city and county leaders plan for a future using I-69 as their cornerstone.
County Councilman, Dennis Bishop is one of only a dozen who gathered at the Pike Co. Courthouse to hear concepts of a new master plan that may turn Petersburg on its own industrial revolution – if the people are here to support it.
“There is nothing for their kids to stay around for,” Bishop says is a common complaint. “We got a great High School with an excellent welding program, but they get trained and ‘poof’ they’re gone,” he says.
Developers say more people leave the county for work than come in, and that’s what they’re trying to change. Officials say the county has low unemployment, and there are concerns that multiple large-scale operations may not have the job base to pull workers.
There are ideas to build low and medium density residential to encourage workers to move into the Petersburg area.
Adam Peaper, a planner with Rundell Ernstberger Associates out of Indianapolis leads the discussion Thursday. He says it’s important now to decide what is important for Petersburg and the county. “We need to balance the carrots versus the sticks,” he says.
The land could be developed into industry for auto assembly, plastics, metal work, and more. Commercial could be a range of retail restaurants, personal professional services, small offices, or a hotel. Developers are still working on anticipated construction costs and acquiring land.
Pike County officials say tax rolls has been decreasing over the last several years as people leave and that means taxes go up for everyone else. Long term they hope development solves some of those issues.
The question now: how do you turn colored maps and plans into concrete and steel? Bishop says it all starts with this idea. “When you want to look at our area and compare that to other people that don’t have the master plan, that gets you further up the ladder.”
Greg Poehlein owns a small piece of recreational land in the 4,000 acres under study. “It would have to be an awful good deal before I would sell.” He says county officials have been in contact but he hasn’t agreed to any numbers.
“Within 10 years there’ll be people build out there,” Poehlein says, “some sort of facilities and Pike County needs the growth.”
Between soybeans and corn an idea is growing that may take some time to bloom, but if you ask most of Petersburg it’s worth the wait.