Infosys' "extraordinary" plan stalls
The largest economic development deal in Indiana history has stalled, amounting to one building, a few dozen parked cars, an abandoned garage and more than 100 acres of weeds.
Why it matters: It's a stain on the records of Gov. Eric Holcomb and Mayor Joe Hogsett, who sealed the record-breaking deal with India-based Infosys, and it could serve as a cautionary tale for future negotiations, especially with technology companies.
Catch up fast: In 2018, Infosys, an information-technology company, announced plans to invest $245 million to construct a massive campus including 786,000 square feet of offices, training centers and apartments at the site where an Indianapolis International Airport terminal once stood.
- Infosys said it would hire 3,000 workers by the end of 2023, making it the state's largest jobs announcement, as part of a broader plan to create 10,000 American jobs.
- In return, the state and city promised a record-setting incentives package worth more than $100 million.
- Mike Pence, as the sitting vice president, attended the splashy 2018 announcement in downtown Indianapolis, and boasted Infosys' "extraordinary commitment" to Indiana.
State of play: Infosys appears to have backed off its commitments — only one building that a company spokesperson described as a "training and innovation hub" has been constructed.
- The company and the city issued statements leaving open the possibility of more development.
Yes, but: Five years later, it looks like "literally the worst deal I've ever heard of," Jared Evans, a City-County Council Democrat, tells Axios. "What's more concerning to me is the lack of transparency to stakeholders who were supportive of the project."
Between the lines: The shared involvement of Holcomb, a Republican, and Hogsett, a Democrat, limits the political fallout because both parties are reluctant to call the Infosys deal a failure.
Zoom out: Infosys' pullback is a sign of post-pandemic economic shifts as tech companies lay off workers, give up real estate and let remaining employees work from home.
- Salesforce, which put its name atop Indianapolis' tallest building six years ago, is subleasing a quarter of that space and cutting 10% of its staff.
- These powerhouse companies, plus others, gave Pence, Holcomb and Hogsett reason to boast they were building a Midwest technology hub.
What they're saying: "We are transitioning from the pandemic and are in the process of associating people to offices," Mary-Ellen Harn, an Infosys spokesperson, told Axios in an email.
- "Corporations and organizations across the country have endured an array of challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic," Hogsett spokesperson Mark Bode tells Axios, "and we've come to understand that Infosys joins that list."
The intrigue: Out of the $117 million the city and state offered Infosys in hiring incentives and infrastructure improvements, state records show the company has qualified for only $15.4 million.
- Infosys claimed in an email to the city last year to have hired more than 1,000 people, but it's unclear how many of those employees are remote. Infosys declined to share Indianapolis hiring numbers or answer questions about construction.
- The Indiana Economic Development Corp. declined to comment beyond pointing Axios to the state's transparency portal, which provides documents on corporate incentive deals, and noting the company is "in compliance with their contract."
What's next: The Indianapolis Airport Authority retains ownership of much of the site and would be in charge of soliciting offers for future development. The airport board did not respond to a request for comment.
- Infosys, so far, is not taking steps toward more construction.
- The company, for example, has not exercised options to acquire more airport-owned land or the parking garage that served the demolished terminal until 2008.
- Evans, who represents the west-side district that includes the airport, wants Indianapolis to move on. "That area looks a lot nicer," he said. "We've just got to figure out how to build off of it."
The bottom line: While Bode says Infosys "told us they remain committed to Indianapolis," Infosys is approaching that commitment with far less fanfare and clarity than it did in years past.
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