Sysco Merger Could Put Starke County Site Back in Play

 Houston, Texas-based Sysco Corporation’s planned merger with Rosemont, Ill.-based U.S. Foods could bode well for Starke County. Sysco bought 320 acres of land south of U.S. 30 in 2007 after announcing plans to build a redistribution center near Hamlet. At the time the company said the expansion would create 500 local jobs. The project stalled in 2009 due to the weak national economy. Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver told the county council this week Sysco still plans to develop the site but has not announced a timeline for doing so.

“Everything they’ve told me so far has been straight. The problem is I don’t know what level in the hierarchy I am when I have my conversations – whether these guys are telling me what they’re told, or whether that’s accurate. We can only hope that it’s accurate, and that there is interest. The project remains budgeted. Whether that’s going to be my lifetime, I don’t know,” Weaver said.

The council also asked Weaver about the status of the Stelrema property north of Knox on U.S. 35. As previously reported by WKVI, an investor purchased the building and is working with a Chicagoland area broker to find a tenant. Stelrema’s parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2002. Weaver says the Starke County Economic Development Foundation worked with the court to protect the county’s interests.

“We’ve recovered $880,000 of tax money from that because of our efforts with the trustee in bankruptcy,” Weaver told the council. “The trustee kept that bankruptcy open for 10 months longer than he normally would because of us.”

Weaver says a number of businesses are considering the site, but none have made offers yet.