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Western Indiana update.

VIGO COUNTY

Terre Haute's Vigo County Industrial Park was chosen in March as the site for a new plant for Liechtenstein based ThyssenKrupp Presta.

The steering-column manufacturer already has 12 on the payroll, with 35 set to be hired by year-end and 75 by next year, says Claudia Tanoos, assistant director of the Terre Haute Area Economic Development Corp. "We're thrilled to death."

The company is investing $9.1 million to refurbish the 68,000-square-toot facility that formerly housed Wheel Tough. It plans to begin production late this fall or early winter, supplying Ford Motor Co.'s 2005 models.

Aisin Brake & Chassis Inc. has begun production at its new 150,000-square-foot plant, also in the Vigo County Industrial Park. It makes brake shoes and braking plate assemblies for the Princeton Toyota plant, employing 50, with plans to continue hiring. "They are still in the startup mode," Tanoos says.

"New companies are glamorous," Tanoos admits. At the same time, she says, "The meat and potatoes of our work are the ones already here, and we are definitely nurturing them, too."

One way is by developing the cluster concept, she says, identified in the reorganized economic-development group's strategic plan. "We've identified some clusters, and one that really hit is advanced manufacturing." Volunteers from her organization are working with the Western Indiana Workforce Investment Board to develop that cluster.

Digital Audio Disc Corp. in Terre Haute is a powerful contributor to the county's economy. It just completed a $20 million expansion that added 15 new DVD production lines. It employs 1,030, making low- and high density disc products, including PlayStation games, CD audio discs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, videos, DVD-ROMs and the new Super Audio CD.

Other top employers, both in Terre Haute, are Bemis Co., employing 1,150 who make polyethylene bags and flexible packaging primarily for the food industry, and Applied Extrusion Technologies, with a workforce of 650 who make polypropylene film.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

Growth at several industries and steady work at 1,600-employee R.R. Donnelley--which printed the latest "Harry Potter" book--bodes well for the economy, reports Andy Sinclair, executive director of Crawfordsville/ Montgomery County Economic Development.

The biggest news is a $10 million, 50,000-square-foot expansion of Lithonia Lighting that will add 185 jobs to the current workforce of 380. Construction began in August, with completion slated for spring 2004. Acuity Brands Inc., which purchased the Crawfordsville light fixture plant in 2001, is closing its Northbrook, Ill., reflector facility and moving those operations to Montgomery County.

Others expanding in the last year are Heidtman Steel, which added a new product and equipment at its 100-employee steel coil pickling and processing plant; and Heritage Products, which doubled the size of its press equipment with a new purchase and built a new warehouse at its auto-parts plant employing 300.

"We are doing extremely well compared to the state and nation. We are bucking the trend," Sinclair says. The economy is helped by a diversified manufacturing base that includes steel, distribution, auto parts, metal fabrication, plastics and food containers.

Other top employers include Nucor Steel, with 656 workers at two operations--the electric furnace, flat-roll steel plant that opened in 1989 and the new Castrip facility; and Alcoa CSI, which employs 550 and makes plastic closures.

PUTNAM COUNTY

"Both Lear and Heartland have been competitive in the marketplace and provided the customer service necessary to be successful," William Dory, executive director of Putnam County Economic Development, says of two of the county's top three and recently expanded employers. That's boded well in challenging economic times.

Lear Corp., employing 900 at its automotive-parts plant, has invested in new equipment. And Heartland Automotive brought a $27 million expansion online that boosted the auto-parts maker's employment by about 100 to 450. Both are in Greencastle.

Putnam's largest industry is Wal-Mart, which employs 900 at its 1.5 million-square-foot Greencastle distribution center that supplies other distribution points. It opened about 12 years ago.

To ready Putnam County to attract new jobs, several community groups, including Dory's, have joined forces to focus on quality-of-life issues. Planning for an expansion of walking and bicycle trails is under way.

"We realize over the long term if we want to attract small entrepreneurs, managers and people with leadership ability, we will have to provide the amenities that add to our desirability," Dory says. Already blessed with airport proximity and DePauw University, in the midst of its own $50 million expansion, "we're now filling in the pieces," he says.

To help boost conference business, the Walden Inn added on, this spring opening a meeting facility.

CLAY COUNTY

Clay County's largest employer, Great Dane Trailers of Indiana in Brazil, has acquired new equipment and landed an Indiana Department of Commerce grant to train workers on quality, statistical process control, ISO and lean-manufacturing methods. The company spent a combined $303,000 at its Brazil and Term Haute plants, which are sharing $107,000 in training funds.

The Brazil plant makes specialty and refrigerated truck trailers. It employs 1,000, about a fourth of the company's workforce. That's up by about 300 from a year ago. The company is currently hiring, reports Kim Orman, secretary of the Clay County Economic Development Organization Inc.

"Some still have a hiring freeze. Some are loosening up," she says of county employers. Others hiring in Brazil include auto-parts maker Morris Manufacturing, with 106 on the payroll, and Britt Tool & Die, with 70 employees.

MI Home Products, also in Brazil, employs 260 and makes screen windows and screen doors.

OWEN COUNTY

Life sciences, hardwoods and nature's beauty dominate in Owen County, where a recent merger created the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp.

The top life-science employer is Massachusetts-based Boston Scientific, the world's largest medical-device company, which employs 875 at the 174,000-square-foot Boston Scientific Spencer Technology Center. There, endoscopy, urology and non-vascular devices are made. spencer-based Cook Urological Inc., a division of Bloomington's Cook Group, employs almost 400, making products used to treat urinary incontinence and for urological surgery.

Hardwood processors include Indiana Hardwood Specialists, with 45 employees, and Dodd Woods, employing 30.

Owen County, covering just 390 square miles, also is home to 1,700-acre McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana's oldest state park.

FOUNTAIN COUNTY

Primarily a rural setting, Fountain County's largest industrial employer is homegrown Harrison Steel Castings Co. in Attica, with 500 currently on the payroll.

The company has just completed a $12 million equipment investment, reports marketing manager Geoff Curtis. "We've retooled our molding operation."

Despite the economic downturn, he reports, "business is picking up. And we've been doing a little hiring."

Founded in 1906, Harrison Steel makes carbon and low alloy steel castings from 100 to 12,500 pounds and ductile iron castings from 500 to 12,500 pounds. Its annual sales range from $50 million to $70 million.

Other key employers are a Masterguard plant in Veedersburg, employing about 900 who make auto bumpers and running guards; commercial battery maker C&D Technologies in Attica, employing about 200; and safety apparel maker Steel Grip, which operates one of its four plants in Covington and employs 65.

VERMILLION COUNTY

A $2.7 million investment in new equipment at Premier Boxboard Ltd. in Cayuga may be just the beginning of the 150-employee plant's capital purchases, reports Ed Cole, executive director of the Vermillion County Economic Development Council. Another $3.5 million in paper-processing machinery is now under consideration.

Much of the council's recent work, Cole reports, has been on a reuse plan for the 7,000 acre Newport chemical weapons depot site. Manufacturing has ceased there, and a neutralization facility has been built. Currently, about 500 are employed, with wind-down slated for 2004.

"It has endless possibilities," Cole says. "What we want to do once the Army is gone is turn the front 2,000 acres into an industrial park." Many of the existing buildings could be modified, and the county is targeting plastics and food-processing firms because of the abundant local water supply. Plans for the remaining acreage--much of it wooded and none of it developed--include open prairie grass areas, recreational use and possibly agricultural research.

"The good thing about the facility is that it's employed people since tile late 1930s," Cole says. "The bad thing is that they'd ramp up production and when they were in full production, there was tremendous amount of employment. But when those went away, unemployment went up."

The county, which boasts World War II journalist Ernie Pyle as its native son, is also home to an Eli Lilly & Co. plant in Clinton. It employs 700 and makes antibiotics.

PARKE COUNTY

The county's top four employers are "all pretty solid, doing pretty well," reports Kristin Clary, executive director of the Parke County Economic Development. They include Scott Pet Products and Saia Burgess Inc., both in Rockville and each employing about 150. Scott makes pet shampoos, collars, cages and food; Saia, switches for ice makers, refrigerators and dishwashers. Sister companies Form Flex in Bloomingdale (plastic folders and photo albums) and Futurex (pickup truck bed liners) in Marshall each employ about 110.

In new developments, Rockville is investing nearly $3 million on a water system upgrade.

With 32 covered bridges, more than any other U.S. county, Parke enjoys a robust tourist business, annually drawing between 1 million to 2 million people its October Covered Bridge Festival.

WARREN COUNTY

TMS Inc. will be the first tenant in Williamsport's new 60-acre industrial park at State Road 28 and U.S. reports Carol Clark, director of the Warren County Local Economic Development Organization. Infrastructure is under way for the park, owned by the organization.

TMS is already the county's largest employer with 160 on the payroll at its other Williamsport plant, where it makes several parts for Caterpillar. The new plant--built and awaiting final infrastructure--will make fuel systems, a new product for TMS, and employ 25 initially. TMS hopes to expand three times over the next three years, Clark says.

Another manufacturer has optioned land in the industrial park, but plans are not yet announced.

Other top employers include Tru Flex, employing 100 at its West Lebanon metal hose plant; and sister companies Kuri-Teck Manufacturing, making plastic hoses, and Hose Technology, making flexible metal hoses, which together employ about 50 in Williamsport.

The county also is benefiting from a $5 million Lilly Endowment CAPE grant and a $100,000 grant that established a revolving loan fund for startups and business expansions.

"The economic climate is actually very good," Clark says. "We have not seen a downturn or layoffs."

BENTON COUNTY

Two expansions are under way in Fowler, reports Amy Bott, development director for the town of Fowler.

Holscher Products, which makes steel yard ornaments and employs about 35, added on last year and has already outgrown that space. "They are adding on again. Their business is increasing significantly," Bott says.

Oxford House, which makes venetian blinds and other window treatments, plans to increase employment by 10 or 15 from its present 100 and may add on to its Fowler facility.

Other industries in the 406-square mile county with 9,700 residents, are Smurfit/Stone in Fowler, making containers and employing about 80; and Powell Systems, maker of steel containers, with a workforce of 30.

Ranked among the top counties in Indiana's soybean and corn production with a healthy agricultural economy, Benton County was a logical choice for Landec Ag Inc.'s research-and-development division, which opened in Oxford two years ago.

Landec's focus is coatings for corn and soybean seed that allow earlier planting, and the Oxford site was where the company developed its recently launched Intellicoat Early Plant corn. The new technology is being showcased in plots at this September's Farm Progress Show in Henning, Ill., as part of the show's focus on new technologies.
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Title Annotation:Top Business Stories
Author:Mayer, Kathy
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:1964
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