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Hesitation over Lake Cable tax abatement draws concern from Valpo economic development officials

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A cable manufacturer is getting a tax incentive to grow its Valparaiso operations, despite concern from some city council members. Lake Cable of Indiana has purchased the former Regal Beloit building next door to its Valparaiso facility and plans to install about $3.6 million worth of new equipment to add production lines.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Sheffieck told the city council Monday that Lake Cable makes many types of products in Valparaiso. "Now, a lot of the products that we make are products that you don't see," he explained as council members viewed samples. "You never see that elevator product. It's sitting in an elevator shaft. This product right here sits in the roofs of buildings."

The city council voted four-to-three to grant an abatement, letting the company phase in taxes on that new equipment over seven years. In return, Lake Cable agrees to add 40 full-time employees at an average salary of $52,500 and pay an impact fee to the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission.

Council President Robert Cotton opposed the measure. He questioned whether the company needed a tax break, since the business seems to be doing quite well. "It's difficult to not see this as an enlightened business decision relative to market circumstances for a company that's in an industry that's doing or in a position to do quite well," Cotton said.

But others worried that if Valparaiso didn't grant the request, other communities would simply offer bigger tax abatements.

Council member Jack Pupillo argued that voting against it would be short-sighted. "This is a no-brainer," Pupillo said. "I mean, this is bringing in good jobs, good-paying jobs."

While the abatement was ultimately approved, economic development officials worried council members' hesitation could scare away new business. "There are major companies looking at Northwest Indiana right now and they read the paper, and they look at your council meetings," said Rex Richards, president and CEO of the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and Valparaiso Economic Development Corporation. "We have Silicon Valley companies looking at Northwest Indiana."

Still, Cotton argued that the quality of the Valparaiso community already makes it more attractive than other places. He also worried trying to compete with other communities would contribute to a potential tax abatement "bubble."