The City of Bloomington is poised to offer millions of dollars in tax breaks to a major pharmaceutical company looking to further develop at a site on the west side of Bloomington. The city council unanimously voted to approve the series of tax breaks in a meeting Wednesday.
The council’s Wednesday vote was only the proposal’s preliminary approval. It will require another vote, likely held on March 2, where a public hearing will also be held.
Catalent is a major pharmaceutical company based out of New Jersey. Many cities across the country are competing for Catalent’s investment, the cost of which is upwards of $350 million. The investment would also add an expected 1,000 new jobs to Catalent’s workforce in Bloomington, which already includes more than 3,200 employees.
The vast majority of the $350 million — nearly 97% of it — will go toward manufacturing equipment and other personal property investments. The city tax breaks for Catalent would register above $43 million, if approved.
Opponents to the plan are concerned Bloomington’s current housing supply is not able to support the new employees Catalent hopes to hire, which could drive up rental costs and home prices.
The city, however, points to the old IU Health Bloomington hospital site — which is just down the street from Catalent’s facility — to satisfy these concerns. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton is touting the old hospital site as an area for new development, and the site’s master plan includes major housing projects.
“Housing is certainly a challenge, but in our view not a reason to reject the positive economic impacts of this potential investment,” Alex Crowley, director of the city’s Department of Economic and Sustainable Development, said. “I would rather have the challenge of dealing with growth instead of the problem of dealing with decline.”
Councilmember Steve Volan asked Catalent representatives if the company would consider transitioning some of their planned parking spaces and instead contract with a developer to build new housing.
“I dislike parking more than I dislike giving up city tax revenue,” Volan said.
A Catalent representative said the company would consider Volan’s condition, but Crowley, who represents the city, told the council it was an unreasonable request for the short timeframe.
Catalent’s Bloomington facility, where the company is looking to develop further, is located at the intersection of S Rogers Street and S Patterson Drive. That’s just about a ten minute drive southwest of Sample Gates.
Mayor Hamilton voiced his support for the tax break proposal Wednesday, giving the proposal a boost heading into its final approval.
“The proposed tax abatement in front of you tonight is a strong demonstration of our commitment as a community to facilitate real career opportunities for our people,” Hamilton said at the beginning of Wednesday’s council meeting.
The Bloomington Economic Development Corporation also endorsed the proposal.
“It’s about investing to create future focused jobs,” BEDC President Jennifer Pearl said. “Catalent is a global leader in their field, and they're making a difference for their patients.”
The council’s final approval will likely be given in early March. Only five affirmative votes from the council are required to move the proposal forward to Mayor Hamilton’s desk, who is expected to continue to support the tax breaks.