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From Site Selection magazine, March 2024

How Plainfield, Indiana Leveraged Its PrimeLocation

A strategy ‘10 years ahead.’

Hendricks County, Indiana
by Gary Daughters

ow does a town of fewer than 40,000 people become one the country’s hottest markets for distribution centers? 

No surprise, it starts with location, and Plainfield, Indiana, has a good one. It’s only 10 minutes from Plainfield to Indianapolis International Airport and its ever-expanding FedEx distribution hub, second only in size to FedEx Memphis and closing in. With easy access to Interstate 70 and other major interstate arteries, Plainfield is but one day’s drive from 75% of the U.S. population. It’s just west of booming Indianapolis. Thus, the roll call of giants that have built DCs in Plainfield’s vast industrial quarter has come to include such luminaries as Amazon, Walmart, UPS, Home Depot, Kohl’s and Pepsi. A $30 million Walgreens hub announced last year is delivering 200 more logistics jobs.

Kent McPhail will tell you he was first in. McPhail came to Plainfield in the mid-1990s representing an Indianapolis steel company. In McPhail’s recollection, two eager developers with big plans for an industrial park drove him out to “an open field with no roadway or anything else.” McPhail saw possibilities. Nearly 30 years later, EMJ Metals, Plainfield’s first distribution center, is still there, and McPhail has just retired after a quarter-century on the Plainfield Town Council, where he led a contingent bent on filling those empty fields, hundreds of acres. Today they hold 50 million square feet of industrial warehouse space.

“I always figured that what worked for EMJ would work for others,” McPhail says with Midwest modesty. 

For Plainfield’s leaders, the idea of converting their town’s prime asset from potential into reality required all hands on deck, and they went about their mission in ways that hadn’t necessarily been tried before. 

“Plainfield was very proactive and specific about exactly where they wanted this development to happen,” says Mark Susemichel, chief development officer for Browning, the venerable Indianapolis development firm. “It happened to be right by the airport and the FedEx facility, which was both specific and important to what they were trying to attract there.” 

Behind a detailed master plan, the town built out roads and other infrastructure, imposing aesthetic standards unusually strict for industrial parks. Crucially, it courted developers with generous tax abatements. Browning, says Susemichel, has since developed three industrial properties totaling some 1,500 acres. 

“Plainfield,” he says, “was really the leader in incentivizing speculative warehouse development. They were very aggressive, and they were doing it before anyone else. They were always thinking 10 years ahead, well ahead of where the market has gone.” 

Priming the Workforce Pipeline

MADE@Plainfield speaks to Plainfield’s resolve to keep staying ahead. Airy and bright and brimming with classrooms and conference space, the sprawling educational hub that opened three years ago devotes 30,000 sq. ft. to what is a state-of-the-art warehousing lab. It’s there to help train a logistics workforce whose necessary numbers and skills have greatly increased since Kent McPhail first came to town.

“With each new warehouse come new jobs that need to be filled,” says town manager Andrew Klinger, “and their processes are way more automated than they’ve ever been before. They need highly skilled workers to manage all that. They need people who understand mechanical systems, electronics, pneumatics. All kinds of things.”

The town built MADE@Plainfield on land donated by the local school district and footed the $35 million price tag through tax increment financing funds — tax revenue from new business development. 

“Logistics,” say Klinger, “was a big driver of the whole process.”

With tailored instruction delivered by Indiana State University, Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University, “MADE” has established workforce training partnerships with the likes of Amazon, Toyota Material Handling and Geodis, a third-party logistics company with a major stake in the market. MADE, says Niels Ostergaard, Toyota special projects manager, is “a tremendous facility.” He says Toyota brings in sales teams for a hands-on education in the inner workings of a modern DC.

“One of the things I like,” he says, “is we spend the morning in the classroom talking about it and we spend the afternoon in the warehouse doing it.”

In addition to curated training, MADE@Plainfield offers logistics-related courses and certifications for individuals throughout the region as part of a broad curriculum that includes accounting, business, IT, medical assisting and general education. Such has been the response that MADE served 10,000 individuals in its first year of operation, only to double that in the one just completed, according to Brandy Wethington Perrill, MADE@Plainfield’s executive director.

“I’ve been telling our partners and our community for the past year,” she says, “that if we had another building the same size sitting right next to us, we would have filled it already.”

Reaping the Benefits 

As e-commerce continues to fuel the industrial warehousing market, the size of individual projects grows apace. Witness Apple’s new $100 million DC — with its staff of 500 — in Clayton, just west of Plainfield. Consider, as well, that FedEx recently pumped $1.5 billion into expanding its Indy hub, further driving the mountainous volume of goods that passes through Hendricks County.

Plainfield has gathered plenty of wind in its sails. A $300 million mixed-use complex is under construction on the town’s east side. Connected to Plainfield’s newly christened government center, a gleaming performing arts venue opens its doors in March. It’ll host community-based artists such as the Hendricks Symphony, Hendricks Civic Theater and the Children’s Ballet as well as touring productions.

“The first three performances sold out within a day,” says Robin Brandgard, Town Council president. “It’s a 600-seat auditorium and I’m wondering if we built it big enough.”

Browning’s Susemichel believes the path to Plainfield’s present-day prosperity was laid by those leaders who gazed across open fields and saw a future.

“All that planning they did 20 years ago has paid off in leaps and bounds. From the revenues they’ve created through economic development they have some of the best schools in the state. They have a thriving downtown and housing is blowing up. What they have done,” he says, “is pretty unbelievable.” 

This Investment Profile has been prepared under the auspices of the Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership. For more information, please contact Executive Director Brian Bilgerat at


Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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