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Southwest Indiana update.

Top business news in the last year

Economic-development officials in Southwest Indiana have been riding the ups and downs of the recession, trying less to land the big, new plant and more to keep a tight grip on the industry they already have.

The area is known for its stable, conservative work force, and with a few exceptions Southwest Indiana has weathered the economic storm well. The latter half of 1992 is when those in economic development expect their cultivation of the last year to blossom.

"We're poised to capitalize on the recovery," said Eric Dewes, director of the Vincennes Area Community Development Corp. in Knox County. "It's been pretty stable here, not a lot of growth, but not a lot of contraction either."

The diversity of the economic base in the area has meant few problems, especially in diverse Vanderburgh County, the economic hub of the area.


Allison Gas Turbine is working on a 29,000-square-foot expansion of a plant it bought in an industrial park in Evansville, its first manufacturing operation outside Indianapolis. The plant, to make exhaust liners for the Lockheed F-22 stealth fighter, may employ nearly 100 after full production begins next year.

On the north side of Evansville, General Foods plans to close its powdered beverage plant next year, costing the community 300 jobs and about $13.5 million in annual spending by the Philip Morris Inc. subsidiary. The plant closing resulted from a study that revealed excess production capacity. Kool-Aid, Country Time, Tang and International Coffees are made at the plant.

In downtown Evansville, a new three-story office building for International Business Machines is complete, the only major construction project downtown. Meanwhile, developer Alan Braun has demolished the shell of the old Mesker Steel Corp., on the Ohio riverfront nearby. He won't reveal plans for the property, but it's no secret the city wants it for a new hotel-convention center it is planning. That development will tie in to the renovation of the old Victory Theatre and the development of an arts center.


Medical facilities are sprouting to the east of Evansville. Deaconess Hospital has built the Deaconess Family Practice Center in Newburgh near I-164. Nearby, St. Mary's Medical Center has built an Epworth Road clinic, and another company has built a magnetic-resonance imaging center. Another business, Optical Laboratory Supply Inc., which has offices in Evansville and Dallas, plans to consolidate its offices in Warrick County within the next year.

Warrick County saw setbacks as well. One of Chandler's largest employers, the Jasper Laminates-Chandler plant, burned to the ground last July, and won't be rebuilt.


Babcock & Wilcox plans to launch production at the company's new aerospace plant in Mount Vernon this summer.

The company began reopening its idled Mount Vernon plant last year to produce massive rocket casings. Included in the deal are 175 jobs and the relocation to Mount Vernon of the Aerospace Components Division of Babcock & Wilcox, now in Ohio. Construction on the $22 million in facilities needed to produce the advanced motor casings is nearing completion.

At the nearby GE Plastics plant, General Electric is spending $100 million to refurbish part of its operation.


One of this county's major employers, the Potter & Brumfield division of German giant Siemens, is moving 320 jobs from Princeton to a factory in Cindad Juarez, Mexico.

The manufacturer of relays and other electronics announced that more jobs will be moved to another plant in Kentucky, which offered financial incentives.

On the other hand, Hazelton Industries, which makes wiring harnesses, is moving a plant from Hazelton to a growing industrial park on U.S. 41 south of Princeton.


The major employer here, Kimball International, is entering the home-office furniture market.

Kimball, a longtime manufacturer of office furniture, has previously made home-office furniture for other companies. Its own home office furniture line is called Harmony Woods. Kimball designed its desks specifically for computer use in the home.

Kimball will offer the 87-model line through retail furniture stores. Harmony Woods will be manufactured at Kimball's Santa Claus plant, which has primarily manufactured television cabinets under contract for other companies.


Peerless Pottery Co. is expanding its line of vitrious china toilets and has begun exports to other countries.

The company moved its headquarters to Rockport a couple of years ago and now is launching an expansion, including adding 25,200 square feet to an existing building, says Joy McCarthy, director of the Lincolnland Economic Development Corp. The company has about 250 workers.

Peerless is an example of a development agency dealing with an existing business. "We've been trying to keep what we have going more than anything else," McCarthy says.

One major industry in the county is tourism, both at the Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus--which has added bungee jumping and is considering a water park--and at the Lincoln Boyhood Memorial.

Abraham Lincoln spent the years 1816 to 1830 in Spencer County and his mother is buried there. The attraction brought 220,000 tourists last year, many from Indiana who were seeking to stay close to home. "Tourism is really important around here," McCarthy says.


Dewes of the Vincennes Area Community Development Corp. reports efforts to help existing industries. He says several, including Johnson Controls, Hamilton Glass and Essex Wire, are either in the midst of expansion or considering growth plans.

Also, the region's airport, the Mid-American Air Center just over the border in Lawrenceville, Ill., has been designated a foreign trade zone.


Unemployment remains a concern here, but existing and new industries are trying to pick up the slack.

Greg Wathen, the new executive director of the Perry County Economic Development Corp., said the outlook for a relatively new business, Maxon Marine, remains bright. Maxine manufacturers rivergoing barges.

The Best Chairs Co. of Ferdinand bought out the former Fisher Chair Co. in Tell City and Cannelton and has that operation going. Also, business remains good at the Tell City Chair Co., a fixture in Perry County. Reports Wathen, "Most everything is fairly stable."
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Title Annotation:economic development
Author:Derk, James S.
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Projects around the state.
Next Article:They're really hauling!

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