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Pence places hold on Indiana economic incentives to company founded by top GOP lawmaker

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By TOM LoBIANCO

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Gov. Mike Pence asked the Indiana Economic Development Corp. on Monday to review its decision to grant $345,000 in economic incentives to a company started by a top Republican lawmaker and his son.

The governor said he wants the IEDC's board of directors to review the state aid offered to Mainstreet Property Group. The company, which develops senior and assisted living complexes, was co-founded by Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner and is run by his son, Zeke.

The IEDC awards tax breaks and grants to foster economic development in the state. Mainstreet was offered conditional jobs tax credits and training grants if it hired additional workers as part of its move from Cicero to Carmel.

IEDC spokeswoman Katelyn Hancock said in a statement that the agency, at the governor's request, "has placed the letter of intent with Mainstreet Property Group LLC on hold pending a review by the IEDC board of directors."

The Associated Press first reported the lawmaker's ties to the project Monday afternoon.

Eric Turner, Hancock and a Mainstreet spokeswoman each said independently Monday that the lawmaker wasn't involved in winning the state economic incentives.

"I don't know anything about whether they're getting any state or local aid. I know about the move, but my son runs the company, he's the president and CEO," Turner said.

Asked if he saw anything wrong with any company started by a lawmaker or a lawmaker's immediate family getting state aid, he said many part-time legislators work in jobs or invest in businesses that seek business or aid from the state.

"My son is operating an expanding business and looking for new space for the expanding business and hoping to hire new employees," Eric Turner said.

Mainstreet is planning to spend $800,000 leasing and equipping 7,120 square feet of office space in Carmel, and hiring as many as 25 new workers by 2015. The company currently employs 20 workers.

Mainstreet spokeswoman Kate Snedeker was not immediately available to comment on the governor's decision. Earlier in the day, Snedeker said Eric Turner had no role in the company's move and touted the project as a good investment for the state.

"I would think this is the kind of business we would want to attract and retain in the state," Snedeker said.

The company has previously secured work from the state. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reported in 2010 on Eric Turners' successful bid to place a call center in a converted school building purchased through a subsidiary of Mainstreet. The call center was authorized as part of the state's failed attempt to privatize welfare. Eric Turner denied any wrongdoing.

 

Posted 4/9/2013