Popping up almost overnight like rogue stalks of corn in a beanfield, enormous fulfillment centers and warehouses have changed the landscape along the highways around Indianapolis. These impersonal giants loom large, but so too do the small things that make Indiana a crossroads of people as much as commerce.
MIKE HANCOCK lives in Whitestown, Indiana. He says the town where he was raised was once considered the middle of nowhere. But in recent years, the community has been hard to miss, especially for motorists traveling the interstate between Indianapolis and Chicago. “People joke around on the town’s Facebook page that we’ve become the warehouse capital of the Midwest.”
Whitestown might have some competition for the title. All along I-65, fulfillment centers have begun to reshape the outskirts of places such as Franklin, Whiteland, Greenwood, and Lebanon. Swaths of farmland have been replaced by concrete jungles to make way for huge facilities owned by corporations like Amazon (which has 110 fulfillment centers around the United States, 11 of them situated in Indiana), medium-sized outfits along the supply chain, and even lesser-known ones such as Quality Custom Distribution and XPO Logistics.
Hancock’s ancestors came to Whitestown in 1849, two years before the town was established. Mike grew up on a 130-acre plot, and his dad still lives in the 1866-era farmhouse built by his great, great-granddad. “If my grandparents were to come back from the grave today, they wouldn’t even recognize this town,” Hancock says.
The ubiquity of the warehouses has an unfortunate tendency to obscure a community’s uniqueness. But residents continue to live and work. Kids play. The faithful worship. Life somehow finds a way.