Builder’s electric enthusiasm local the journal gazette gas x dosage for dogs

Early enthusiasm for the $220 million first phase of Electric Works propelled it through the challenging process of winning commitments for state and federal funding. The unexpected snag has been securing local funding at the level needed to fulfill the developers’ vision.

Biggs, a third-generation builder, traces the beginnings of his company to 1959, when his grandfather, Clark W. Smith, founded Ideal Suburban Homes in Decatur. The operation, which is under The Biggs Group umbrella, has since been rebranded Ideal Builders.

Smith, a natural entrepreneur, was also an inventor and risk-taker. He and a friend, for example, bought a glider kit, built it in the garage and taught themselves to fly it. He also invented a round airplane hangar that allows small planes to be backed in onto a carousel that turns, allowing four aircraft to be stored inside the one-door structure. The building is still at Smith Field.

Biggs also spent hours visiting job sites with his father and grandfather. As he got older, they paid him to do increasingly difficult work that started with picking up trash and transitioned into framing, roofing and digging footings for new homes and for the multifamily dwellings the company started to build.

The company employs about 60. Biggs said the lean workforce is possible because he chooses to work with real estate agents in each county to sell new homes on commission. That allows the firm to lower payroll costs and keep close ties with area communities.

Biggs remembers his father’s philosophy. Ralph Biggs, a devout Catholic and optimist, believed the best reward for being in business wasn’t the promise of wealth. Instead, he treasured the relationships built in his daily dealings and the opportunity to help others.

Heather Presley-Cowen, who was the city’s deputy director of housing and neighborhood services at the time, reached out to Biggs to invite him and his father into the Renaissance Pointe project. They were one of three local builders who participated.

Biggs applied to the state for federal tax credits awarded through the Low-Income Housing Credit Program. That allowed the builder to rent homes for 15 years and then sell them to occupants for about half of what they’re worth. To qualify, buyers had to take classes on homeownership and improving their credit scores.

“Kevan was the one builder who, when the crash happened, came back to the table with me and my team to do the mental gymnastics to get through the crunch,” said Presley-Cowen, who left city government after 25 years and now works as an independent community development consultant. She is CEO of her own firm, CED Services, short for Capacity Enhancement & Development Services.

But, Biggs thought, he could create a proposal for a small portion of the campus. So he worked with Ron Dick, a principal in Design Collaborative Architects + Engineers, to come up with a plan that Biggs then shared with anyone willing to listen. That list included Mayor Tom Henry, who offered encouragement and the names and numbers of some GE officials.

When Biggs read in The Journal Gazette that GE was accepting proposals to develop the entire campus, he assumed his dream was dead. But that was before he met Joshua Parker, a developer from Baltimore who also contacted Design Collaborative about drafting some ideas for the campus. Dick, the architect, made the introductions.

Although Parker’s Cross Street Partners had never tackled such an ambitious project, the firm’s partners have previous experience in some big-time development deals, including a portion of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina.

Parker assembled his proposal for the GE campus with the help of Biggs and Fort Wayne native Jeff Kingsbury, who is managing principal in Indianapolis firm Greenstreet Limited. Kingsbury graduated from Homestead High School and Ball State University.

If another Great Recession would strike just as Electric Works was set to open, those who have signed lease deals could back out. That would leave the developers without the income necessary to make their loan payments, resulting in a default.

After the lender took ownership of the property, it would write off some of the value, then sell it for significantly less to another management group. The new owners would be able to lease space at much lower prices because its debt for buying the property would be lower then the original developers.

Because the lenders would also lose part of its fund to offset defaulted loans, the bankers are motivated to triple-check every detail of the deal, a local commercial banker said. The banker, who has not reviewed the Electric Works financial details and is not involved in the deal, asked not to be named.

The Electric Works project was also designated $12 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits, which were awarded to the Fort Wayne New Markets Revitalization Fund. Biggs said New Markets money does not count toward the $65 million commitment in local dollars the developers have asked for, even though the award was a local decision.