Lafayette, IN – Lafayette, Ind., a small community nestled between Chicago and Indianapolis, is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. According to the local economic development organization, nearly anyone could get a job tomorrow at one of the area manufacturing facilities starting at almost two times minimum wage.
“Lafayette is and has been in a full blown expansion mode for several years now. Increasing tax revenues are building new sidewalks and libraries – and the new employment is supporting a thriving downtown entertainment market,” said Thomas Murtaugh, Tippecanoe County Commissioner.
In fact, Lafayette’s greatest challenge is attracting enough workers to fill all the open positions. A flurry of recent expansions in the manufacturing sector has boosted the city’s employment demand.
What’s at the root of this growth? An expanding logistics network, anchored by affordable and efficient freight rail service.
Lafayette is home to Subaru of Indiana Automotive, the only Subaru facility outside of Japan. Located across 800 acres, this green facility is committed to sustainability, sending nothing to the landfill and even maintaining animal habitats across the property. In 2015, it underwent a $422 million expansion followed by an additional $140 million investment into two new lines. Employment quickly grew from 3,200 to nearly 5,000 and line capacity is expected to increase 25% to over 400,000 vehicles per year.
Two other major facilities in Lafayette have also experienced recent expansions. Alcoa invested $100 million into its aluminum extraction facility serving the aviation sector. The aluminum lithium alloy manufactured in Lafayette reduces the weight and cost of an aircraft’s structure while increasing its weight-to-strength ratio. Manufacturer Tate & Lyle also joins the recent expansions, with a $130 million investment into its facility that produces corn syrup and sweeteners for Splenda.
While these facilities could not be more diverse in what they manufacture, they all share a common theme. None would exist without the local freight rail lines that serve all three facilities.
Both CSX and Norfolk Southern provide affordable transportation to national markets and suppliers, allowing these facilities to bring in raw parts, scrap metal, and agricultural products while shipping out finished products like the Subaru Outback on rail. Demand for rail is so high at the Subaru plant that Norfolk Southern has expanded its rail yard twice in recent years.
“Freight rail connections make our rural community work, without them we would be stagnant and disconnected from manufacturing opportunities,” said Murtaugh. “With the help of a strong logistics network, we have become a premier community for manufacturing.”