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Eastern Indiana update.

Economic-development officials this past year may have felt more like air-traffic controllers trying to entice and cajole companies out of the holding pattern they settled into in 1992 and onto their own particular runway.

But the economic uncertainties of early last year seemed to clear by the end of the year as a number of major investments were announced in Eastern Indiana that will brighten the region's employment picture for 1993.


Perhaps the largest involved Thomson Consumer Electronics in Marion. "They announced a major renovation and upgrade of their systems to the tune of about $40 million over the next 2 1/2 years," says Tim Eckerle, director of the Grant County Economic Growth Council.

He says the Indianapolis-based company makes television picture tubes for its GE and RCA brands in Marion, and has been introducing the VLS--very large screen--tube. New equipment has been brought in and the company plans to renovate the plant, which employs 2,600 people.

General Motors, Marion's largest employer at just over 2,600 workers, also has started a modernization program at its local operations. Eckerle says the company is focusing less on equipment investments and more on training people in an effort to improve quality and productivity.

Franklin Electric, meanwhile, announced in October that it will build a new electronic technology center in nearby Gas City that will add 60 employees to its current 60-person staff. Work is to begin on the new 34,000-square-foot facility this spring.

Markee Products, an outdoor Christmas decor firm, located a distribution center in Converse on the west side of Grant County, which will add another 60 jobs. Also, in January Prime PVC announced it will relocate plastic pellet production from its Palm Beach, Fla., site to Marion in a former General Plastics building.

Other Grant County firms that expanded in 1992 include Bell Packaging, Wiley Metal, American Toolcraft, Blue Sky Graphics and Heye America.


In Randolph County, a $25 million military contract allowed Union City Body Co. to survive and close out the year with 385 employees instead of zero. The company had filed for Chapter 11 protection during the summer after suffering from persistent cash-flow problems.

The new contract involves 1,900 delivery vehicles for the U.S. Air Force. "When those orders have been filled, hopefully the market will have rebounded for cube and step vans and the company will be on better footing financially," says Jim Dinkle, executive director of the Randolph County Community Economic Development Foundation. Union City Body also makes delivery vehicles for Frito-Lay, Federal Express and UPS.

Another company that had been nosediving pulled up sharply as well. Winchester's Lobdel-Emery called back 50 laid off employees in November to produce new components. In the summer, the company produced its millionth Chevrolet Corvette frame, less than a year after the company threatened to move production elsewhere. "So in many ways Lobdel was on the upswing by year's end," Dinkle says.

DMI, a Muncie warehousing and freight transport company that serves Anchor Glass, also opened a new 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Winchester in October and moved its headquarters there. And Astral Industries proceeded on a new plant in Lynn to expand casket production there. It's scheduled to be open by July.


Perhaps the most significant turbulence in the region during the past year was in Wayne County, where the nation's oldest school bus manufacturer, Wayne Corp., was sold at a January bankruptcy auction. The plant shut down last summer, putting more than 300 people out of work. It was purchased by Harsco Corp. and production will be moved to Marysville, Ohio, where that company's BMY-Wheeled Vehicle Division is located.

That loss was countered, however, by another January announcement that production of a new home-insulation product would begin this year at the Manville plant, which shut down at the end of 1991.

Also, Cinram, a Canadian music reproduction company that purchased a local plant in 1990, invested about $12 million in Richmond to upgrade audiocassette production and introduce videocassettes, compact discs and digital compact cassettes to its product line.

And Belden Division-Cooper Industries announced that it will move wire and cable manufacturing from a Louisiana plant to Richmond, bringing about 80 jobs beginning this spring.

Other recent expansions and investments--including those for Amcast, Lowe's, Color Box, Primex Plastics, Landis Plastics, Kemper Division-WCI Cabinet Group, Holland Colors, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Wolohan Lumber, Earlham College, Indiana University East and Richmond State Hospital--involve projects totaling close to $50 million.


Terry Murphy, vice president of economic development for the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, says the economy there has remained more stable than in some surrounding counties. "The Muncie area unemployment has been running about 1.5 percent below the national average, so all in all we've held our own," he says.

General Motors delayed development of its electric car, which would have heavily benefited Muncie and Anderson. Still, Murphy saw silver linings in the clouds on that decision.

"It's kind of good and bad news," he says. "Sure, they pushed the startup date back. But now it looks like GM, Ford and Chrysler are going to work on it together. Ultimately, that could mean a lot more business." The electric car project now isn't expected to begin until 1995.

And there are more silver linings on the wing. Muncie Foundry and Machine Works announced in November it plans to create 140 jobs by renovating a 250,000-square-foot foundry to make aluminum products. It was expected to open in late February.

Burlington Motor Carriers so far has filled about 270 of the 470 jobs it promised in relocating its headquarters to Daleville, near Muncie. Yorktown Tool & Die started in October on a $4.3 million investment into equipment and building expansions. Some 60 people will be added to its staff of 150 people.

Other investments or expansions at Muncie Engineered Technologies Corp., Techna-Seal Corp., Reber Machine & Tool and Reliance Machine Co. involve another 160 new jobs and about $5 million in building and equipment.


Much of the most striking developments in Madison County have been in residential and commercial areas. John Hagen, executive director of the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development, says three new subdivisions have been announced, including one for 283 homes whose final investment would exceed $50 million.

Hagen also says that First Benefit Corp. has built a 25,000- square-foot building in the city's new industrial park, and will more than double its current staff of 120 people by 1995. The insurance-claims processor has seven Fortune 500 clients and has made Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies.

Also, it was announced late last year that a $7 million factory outlet mall will be built in downtown Anderson and open in the summer of 1994. It will employ some 500 people, some full-time and some part-time, Hagen says.

St. John's Medical Center is building a $12 million, free- standing ambulatory care facility that will create an additional 130 professional and staff jobs related to cancer treatment. The hospital also provided part of the $5 million that Anderson University plans to spend to add a wing onto its nursing-studies building and make other improvements, he says. Those are to be complete for the 1993-94 school year.


In New Castle, Grede Foundries announced plans in October to invest $11 million in a new building and moulding system for ductile iron production, a plan that would add 60 to 70 jobs to its 170-person work force. "We're very excited about it," says plant works manager Rob Davis.

Grede is the fourth-largest independent foundry in the country, with nine production sites. The New Castle operation opened in 1989 in a plant closed down by Dana Corp. a year earlier.

Chrysler Corp., which makes suspension components in New Castle, also has secured production on five new product lines guaranteeing work through 1997, according to Don Anderson, production control manager. That was aided by a new operating agreement with the United Auto Workers.

Marynell Bogue, development coordinator for the New Castle- Henry County Economic Development Corp., notes that the facility also won a U.S. Senate productivity award last year and had the lowest absentee rate of any of Chrysler's Indiana plants. "Through a couple initiatives, the local plant saved $25 million in costs, with management and labor working together."

Ferodo America is investing about $500,000 in new equipment to expand recycling efforts in making the heavy-duty truck brakes the company produces. "We are also building a 10,000-square- foot building to accommodate some of that equipment," says Ferodo engineering manager Shafaat Hussain.

Bogue says the moves will keep 1.4 million pounds of sand used in molding the brake components from being deposited at area landfills.


Bob Quadrozzi, Jay County Development Corp. executive director, says Portland's biggest news was the January announcement that Fort Recovery Industries plans to invest $765,000 in new blow- molding equipment. "They make containers for fluids, primarily cleaning fluids," Quadrozzi says. "On this project, they'll be making water and juice containers like those carried on bicycles."
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Title Annotation:economic review of Indiana state
Author:Mogollon, Carlos David
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Marion.
Next Article:Silver Towne.

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