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8/8/2017 12:03:00 PM
Three major construction projects bring unprecedented growth to Russiaville

Carson Gerber, Kokomo Tribune

RUSSIAVILLE – Russiaville is home to some of the oldest family-owned businesses in the county, many of which have thrived in the community for 50 years or more. In fact, the only chain business in the entire town is a Subway restaurant.

But that’s all changing.

This year marked an unprecedented amount of new construction that’s bringing millions of dollars in new investment to the town.

McClure’s is in the midst of building a new, $3.5 million facility along Indiana 26 on Russiaville's east side, with an opening date planned for early October. It's part of an unprecedented amount of new construction that's bringing millions of dollars of new investment into the town.

That includes the construction of the chain businesses Dollar General and McClure’s gas station. Russiaville-based Tri-County Travel Trailers is also expanding and building a new 11,200-square-foot facility on over 10 acres of land on the west side of town.

Jeff Stout, who serves on the town’s planning commission and owns Stout & Son Funeral Homes, said he’s lived and worked in Russiaville nearly his entire life, and there has never been a time in the last 50 years when so much new development has come to Russiaville.

“It’s almost to the point where you have to pinch yourself and think, ‘Is this really going on?’” Stout said.

But there’s no doubt that it is.

Dollar General opened its new store last week at 395 W. Main St. after months of construction, bringing up to 10 jobs to town.

The store sells name-brand health and beauty products, home cleaning supplies, housewares, stationery, seasonal items and basic clothing. It also sells packaged foods, as well as some refrigerated and frozen foods.

McClure’s is in the midst of building a new, $3.5 million facility along Indiana 26 on the town’s east side that includes eight fueling positions for vehicles and a two-lane fill-up station for semis. The convenience store will house a Noble Roman’s Pizza, a frozen yogurt station and sell beer and wine.

McClure Oil President Kelly McClure said the gas station will be a 24-7 operation and employee up to 20 people. An opening date is planned for early October.

Tri-County Trailer is also in the middle of constructing its new facility, which will allow the company to house more merchandise, more trailer units, more services, a large showroom and also bring an increase in employees.

Owner Steve Jones said in a previous interview that construction is set to be a fairly brief process, with the new facility currently planned to be open in October.

Russiaville Town Council President Jeff Lipinski said there’s no doubt the new developments are changing the long-established business landscape in town, but officials are confident the infusion of new investment bodes well for the local economy.

“Russiaville has changed over the years,” Lipinski said. “It used to be a small, Mayberry-type place, but that’s not the case anymore. We’re growing. It’s very unusual for our town. Small towns are struggling because there’s not a whole lot of growth, so this is refreshing and exciting.”

It all begs the question: Why now?

Stout said it comes down to good planning mixed with a good bit of luck. He said town officials have pushed to grow the town for years and looked to attract new businesses to do that. But the most recent developments just happened to fall into their laps.

“The town was always interested in growth, and then these two projects slid in and we all said, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it,’” Stout said. “’Let’s make sure they meet all the permits, and then do it.’”

Dollar General Spokesperson Laura Somerville said the decision to build one of their stores in Russiaville stemmed from studying the town’s demographic trends, competitive factors, traffic patterns and community concerns.

“The company looks for places where we can offer customers an easy and convenient shopping choice,” she said in an email. “We know convenience is a major factor in our customers' shopping decisions, as we generally serve customers within a three-to-five-mile radius, or 10-minute drive.”

Kelly McClure said her company landed on Russiaville for their newest gas station because of its location along Indiana 26 and a large enough population to support the services they provide.

“Russiaville looked like a good community that matched well with what we offer,” she said.

Stout said he thinks the community’s track record on supporting local business also factored in to the companies eyeing Russiaville for new development.

“One of the things they see is the longevity of the other businesses – that people do support them,” he said. “Howard County has been good to the Russiaville businesses. People will drive across the county to shop here. I think these new companies sense that people come to Russiaville because of the reputation of the town.”

But for some of the family-owned businesses, the new developments are set to create more competition than they have faced in decades.

Jon Newlin, who co-owns Waddell’s IGA, which has been operated by the same family for over 70 years, said there’s always been some competitive overlap with other businesses in town.

But the new Dollar General and food services at the gas station will bring the most competition his grocery store has faced in his lifetime.

“We think it’s going to be a challenge for us because of the overlap, but hopefully this makes us step up our game,” Newlin said. “We’re constantly looking at the services we provide and how we can do things better, and we’ve always been doing that. It comes down to the fact that you’ve got to know your customers and how you can appeal to them.”

He said for Waddell’s, that entails beefing up the unique services that no other businesses offer in Russiaville. That includes expanding their deli, meat department and fresh produce, as well as their hot-food items.

Newlin said although the new businesses will bring stiffer competition for the grocery store, he knows the town is set to benefit from the development boom.

“I think overall, it’s very positive,” he said. “Whenever there’s competition, that should make us all better. If other businesses are doing something we’re doing, then we have to be a notch above that. Hopefully competition breeds better prices and services.”

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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