Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist

Following a year where Shipshewana saw rapid industrial growth, the town is preparing to become home to the new 250,000-square-foot Michiana Event Center.

The center, which is expected to open later this year, will include a trading space and arena for horse shows and sales, parking to accommodate 1,000 cars plus horse and buggies and a 300-stall horse barn.

“They approached us because this is where the action is in LaGrange County,” Shipshewana Town Manager Michael Sutter said. “For all the businesses here in Shipshewana, it is just another huge opportunity to increase their volume. People have to eat. People have to sleep. People like to buy things, so all of our merchants should do much better.”

The influx of visitors to the event center makes it even more imperative that Shipshewana increase its industrial and commercial tax base, Sutter said. A huge challenge for the town – a major tourism draw because of its sizeable Amish population – is maintaining the water and wastewater infrastructure required for a much larger community.

“That is why commercial development and industrial development are so critically important,” Sutter said.

Among the new developments, Highland Ridge RV built a new facility in town, as well as ARI Legacy Sleepers. A town mainstay, Yoder’s Meat and Cheese, also built a new warehouse.

“It’s a positive,” Shipshewana Clerk-Treasurer Ruth Ann Downey said. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

The vitality of the community is one-of-a-kind, Sutter said.

“I have never seen such an entrepreneurial community outside of this place,” Sutter said. “This place is incredible. There’s not a day that goes by where somebody’s not sticking a shovel in the ground and saying ‘I’m going to build something else.’ These folks could take Wharton business school to task on how to do things right.”

Because of those marketing skills, many of the businesses have become destinations in themselves, Sutter said. And as town leaders see it, the interest surrounding the area’s Amish heritage keeps bringing visitors back.

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