ANDERSON – The former General Motors properties along Scatterfield Road have turned from being an economic "ground zero" into a "new vision" for Anderson, a local economic leader said Thursday.

The comparison came as stakeholders toured the new Purdue Polytechnic Institute project, slated to open in January with Maker Space for entrepreneurs to develop new products and industrial space in the $17 million facility.

As proposed, the 90,000-square-foot Purdue Polytechnic will include 30,000 square feet for academic programs through Purdue University and the remaining space will be used for micro factories and Maker Space for start-up companies.

Purdue University has signed a 15-year lease for academic space in the building.

Chuck Staley, CEO of the Flagship Enterprise Center, said he remembers when the site was the location for three GM plants, employing up to 15,000 people.

“This was ground zero,” he said of GM leaving Anderson in the late 1990s. “This is a new vision for our community.”

Staley said the project is about more than a new state-of-the-art facility, but is really about education, enterprise, innovation and, most of all, about community.

“We’re creating a workforce educated in technology,” he said. “Something that has been a challenge in Anderson — between Anderson University, Ivy Tech and the local school system we’re addressing that issue.”

Staley said there is nothing like the Anderson facility in several states.

“This is a true Purdue Polytechnic that’s going to connect with small and large businesses, students and community leaders,” he said. “This will be a catalyst for more development in the area.”

Staley said Italian company Italpollina is already moving in and conversations are taking place with other companies interested in locating on the site.

“Who would have thought that 10 years ago,” he said. “This is crucial for the city. It’s in the center of the city. It’s significant for not only Anderson and Madison County, but for the state.”

Corey Sharp, director of Purdue Polytechnic Anderson, said applications for enrollment in Anderson continue to grow.

“We already have 90 percent of our current students enrolled for the fall semester,” he said. “Students are excited about moving into the new building.”

Sharp said for the fall semester there are between 130 and 140 students enrolled and the goal is to have 300 to 500 students at the Anderson facility in the next three to five years.

“A significant number of students come from Anderson and Madison County, but we also have students from Hamilton, Delaware, Hancock, Grant and Blackford counties,” he said. “This is the vision for what Purdue Polytechnic is all about, integration and industrial space together.

“Our location will be unique as compared to all other Purdue sites around the state,” Sharp said. “We’re recruiting entrepreneurs to become students that want to create products.”

John Pistole, president of Anderson University, said he is excited for Anderson and Purdue to be able to open this great facility.

“As we at AU expand our engineering program, computer engineering this year, this is a great opportunity for us to partner with such a top institution as Purdue,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a partnership.”

Within a mile of the AU campus a world-class engineering facility will be available to students, Pistole said.

He said there is a possibility that some students attending the Purdue Polytechnic Institute who want a residential experience may be able to live on the AU campus.

Pete Bitar, president of Xtreme ADS and the Anderson Innovation Center, said the goal is to create an innovation culture in Madison County and the region.

“We’re looking for a cultural shift,” he said. “The community is looking to pull itself up by the boot straps instead of relying on a General Motors to locate in the city.”

Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. said the community came together to make the project a reality.

“General Motors is long gone, this is a different time,” he said. “Purdue Polytechnic is a part of the puzzle. We’re embracing the change as a city.”

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.