Southern Indiana update: the region's top business stories.
Manufacturing. In high-dollar investments, Jeffersonville-based American Commercial Lines Inc., known locally as "Jeffboat," tops the list with completion of its $17.5 million expansion announced in July 2006, when the shipyard employed about 1,200. Today, 1,616 are on the payroll in Jeffersonville, making and repairing towboats, tankers and barges, reports Matt Hall, vice president for economic development at One Southern Indiana. It's the largest single-site inland shipbuilding and repair facility in the U.S., covering nearly 70 acres, with 5,600 feet fronting the Ohio River. Jeffboat designs and builds for third-party customers and its own transportation business. The company reported nearly $1 billion in revenues at yearend 2007 and 3,300 employees on the payroll corporate-wide.
Another operation expanding in Jeffersonville is CLARCOR Inc., Air Filtration Projects. The company is spending $8.5 million to lease and equip 450,000 square feet in the River Ridge Commerce Center. It will accommodate operations that are closing in New Albany and Kentucky. About 325 are on the job now in Jeffersonville, with another 100 coming.
"This is a retention and expansion project," Hall says. "They looked all over the Midwest and chose to consolidate here." The company makes heating, ventilation and air conditioning products under Purolater, Airguard and Air Technologies brand names. Its products are used in commercial, industrial, institutional and residential applications.
Also in Jeffersonville, C&G Technologies Inc. is spending $1.6 million on an expansion and doubling its operating capabilities. The company refurbishes computer tomography (CT) scanners used in medical imaging. C&G currently employs 35 and is adding another 33.
Three Harrison County manufacturers are also expanding, says Darrell Voelker, economic development director at Harrison County Chamber of Commerce. California-headquartered Howard Packaging, which began operations in Corydon in 2006, has purchased the site it had been leasing in the Harrison County Industrial Park and additional acreage, and is now adding on to its plant. The company employs 65, who make plastic bottles for Lucas Oil Products, about a mile away.
Awningtec U.S.A., also in Corydon, is now operating from a new, expanded build ing. "Tremendous growth in their business of manufacturing and installing awnings and signs is now forecasted because of the more efficient operation," Voelker says. The company employs 35.
Near Mauckport, Norstam Veneers, which was planning an expansion before its plant was destroyed by fire in February, is rebuilding, with plans for the new facility to be completed by summer 2009. Sixty-five of the company's 120 employees remain on the job; the rest are expected to return next summer.
Back office. Accent Marketing is expanding its call centers in both Jeffersonville and New Albany, Hall reports. The workforce of 340 in New Albany is increasing by 63 and the 103-person staff in Jeffersonville will grow by 17.
In Jeffersonville, Connextions Inc. has moved its high-tech customer support center into a new site. It began operations in November 2007, and will have 750 employees by yearend. Because the center serves health insurance companies, its employees include registered nurses and insurance agents. The company also has an operation in Florida and another in North Carolina. Its clients include Federal Express, Mercedes-Benz, Caremark and others.
Recreation. Two casinos and outdoor recreation areas are also contributing to southern Indiana's economy.
The French Lick Resort and Casino, which opened in November 2006 and today employs more than 1,500 area residents, continues to add amenities. The new Pete Dye Course at French Lick is scheduled for a spring 2009 opening.
The French Lick Springs Hotel has 443 rooms and suites and nine dining options; West Baden Springs Hotel, 246 rooms and suites and six dining options. The resort also has a 109,000-square-foot conference and event center.
In Elizabeth, conversion of the former Caesar's Indiana to Horseshoe Casino & Hotel Southern Indiana is complete. The 503-room hotel and casino was acquired by Harrah's Entertainment in 2006 and had been undergoing a rebranding since. The redesigned facility was dedicated in July "The new Horseshoe Southern Indiana drew big crowds to their summer outdoor concert series, and the months ahead look promising," says Voelker. "They are the largest employer in the county, with approximately 2,000 people."
Outdoor recreation is also popular in the area.
"Tourism is huge. It's very important," says Don Dubois, executive director of the Crawford County Economic Development Commission. Visitors are drawn to Marengo and Wyandotte caves, Patoka Lake, Blue River, Carnes Mill Nature Preserve, Harrison-Crawford State Forest, Hemlock Cliffs and Hoosier National Forest.
Developments. A long-vacant, 100-year-old former factory and oil company site with two buildings on Main Street in Salem is about to be transformed into a 48,000-square-foot retail center with 241 parking spots, says Gerald Rose, executive director of the Washington County Economic Growth Partnership Inc. The project is being developed by MELAS LLC, which specializes in retail center developments. Five businesses have already committed to locating there.
The 200-acre Crawford County Southeast Industrial Park now has 85 acres designated shovel-ready under the Indiana fast-track approval program. "We're open to any kind of manufacturing, call center, data center or warehousing," Dubois says.
Medical. The new, 159,000-square-foot Harrison County Hospital in Corydon opened in February. With 4,750 employees and an annual payroll of $18 million, the county-owned hospital "is truly an economic engine," Voelker says. Two new medical office buildings have also been built and leased, and a third is underway
'Build the Bridges.' One Southern Indiana also reports that a "Build the Bridges" coalition has the support of the mayors of Louisville, New Albany and Jeffersonville. The coalition is a broad-based, nonprofit private organization of Kentucky and Indiana advocates pushing for a quick and cost-effective construction project that involves three Ohio River bridges.
The planned project, with a $4.1 billion price tag, includes a new eastern Louisville metro area bridge, a second bridge to expand the current Interstate 65 bridge and a reconfiguration of the of the I-65, I-64 and I-71 intersection. The bridges are necessary, the Coalition says, to assure job growth on both sides of the river, public safety and less congestion.