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Mooresville bills itself as "a friendly place to live," and the northern Morgan County community of 6,200 people is poised for significant growth during the 1990s.

"We saw no recession during the late 1980s," says Randy Haymaker, "and we expect to add about 900 new houses during the period from 1991 to 1998."

Haymaker, a former Mooresville journalist who works as the city's economic-development director, started the Mooresville Development Commission from scratch five years ago. There were two reasons for the city to involve itself in economic development, Haymaker explains. Mooresville wanted to expand its tax base, and the city saw a need to support its existing businesses.

"Our school district was 60th in the state in population," Haymaker says, "but we were 280th in the state in tax base per student. Obviously, we were out of balance."

Since starting, the commission has shepherded 10 major projects to completion, creating 335 new jobs and retaining 120 existing jobs. That's meant a new payroll of $11.2 million for the community, along with capital investments of nearly $21 million.

The community has an increasingly diverse economic base. The community reported a 10 percent spurt in housing growth last year, and its assessed valuation went up 14 percent in 1992.

Mooresville's location on Indiana 67 about 10 miles southwest of Interstate 465 attracts businesses interested in a small-town work ethic and way of life, with big-city amenities close by. "From my office to the Circle (in downtown Indianapolis), it's closer than from my office to Martinsville," Haymaker says.

One business executive attracted to the mix of small-town and big-city life is Frank Lowry, the owner of LinEl Skylights. Lowry, who has lived in Mooresville since his parents moved to the town from Indianapolis, describes himself as "just one of the LinEl team." He started the firm in Mooresville 13 years ago, and today, LinEl employs about 150 people in an 80,000-square-foot facility on Bethel Road near the Mooresville Airport.

"I've been all over the world," Lowry says, "and I tell the kids that I love to get home. I like the four seasons and the people who live here. It's a friendly place to live, and it has a real good work ethic."

LinEl makes skylights and industrial panels for buildings all over the country, and the world. Perhaps the most recognizable LinEl installation to Hoosiers is the paneled pyramid atop the Bank One Tower in downtown Indianapolis. The company also installed the interior and exterior skylight panels at the award-winning 120 Monument Circle building in the Hoosier capital. The atrium at Keystone at the Crossing in Indianapolis is another LinEl project.

Lowry has worked as far away as Saudi Arabia, and his credits include the atrium at the Nations Bank Tower in Charlotte, N.C., and the glass-enclosed walkway at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City, N.J. LinEl is ready to break ground on a 100,000-square-foot addition in Mooresville this month. The expansion will more than double the size of the facility, Lowry says, and will result in the addition of 228 new jobs, a new payroll of $6 million a year and a capital investment of more than $10 million.

Haymaker points out that the most important factor in attracting new business is "location, location, location, followed closely by labor, labor, labor. Morgan County operates at 75 percent of the state's average industrial wage."

That combination of skilled labor and location has attracted an increasing number of foreign companies to the Morgan County community. Some 80 percent of all the bricks used in Indiana are made by General Shale Corp. in Mooresville, which is owned by a holding company in the United Kingdom. GR Wood Corp. is a growing wood-fabrication firm that is owned by investors in Germany.

The community's blue-collar roots are reflected in some of the heavy industries that call Mooresville home. Ambassador Steel is a steel reinforcing bar distribution facility that recently tripled the amount of tonnage it can handle. Amerifab makes steel decking for utility rooms, and the Overton & Sons tool and die shop does tooling for the magnet and tubing industries. Federal Mogul Corp. has just invested several million dollars in expanding its Mooresville sleeve bearing plant.

The city's diverse economy also includes several of the industries of the 1990s on its roster of community firms. Nice-Pak Products, a plastics injection-molding firm, makes everything from medical products to the forks used by KFC customers. Mag Plastics makes molds for the electronics industry, and Laboratory Equipment Co. makes aircraft and automotive test equipment. Mooresville's businesses and residents are served by several financial institutions, including Citizens Bank, First National Bank and Mooresville Savings Bank, as well as branches of Bank One and INB National Bank.

Mooresville's efforts to attract additional industry are aided by its business parks. White Lick Creek Business Park, for example, is a 135-acre development located along Indiana 67. More business locations can be found at the 100-acre Meadowbrook Business Park. And Haymaker points to a 72-acre industrial site that's served by utilities though not parceled into a business park at this time.

Mooresville is also fast attracting attention for its medical facilities. Already, several physicians and podiatrists from the southside Indianapolis area have established practices in the community. Mooresville's Kendrick Healthcare Center continues to draw physicians to this Morgan County community.

Established in the 1880s as a small general hospital for treatment of "diseases of the rectum," the hospital passed into the control of Dr. William Kendrick in the early 1960s. He reorganized the facility as a non-profit hospital in 1966, and in 1972, the institution was moved from the Victorian mansion that had been its home for 80 years into its present location on Hadley Road in Mooresville.

Kendrick retained its very strong colorectal practice through the 1970s and 1980s. The center decided to diversify in the mid-1980s, and lured Dr. Merrill Ritter, one of the top orthopedic specialists in the state, to set up the Center for Hip and Knee Surgery. Today, the center offers back procedures, reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle and total joint replacement for hips, knees, shoulders and elbows.

"This really is kind of unusual for a community this size," notes Bud Swisher, Kendrick's administrator. "People come here from all over the Midwest and the world. We're one of Biomet's largest users of prosthetic implants, and we do a lot of research with them."

Kendrick facilities are staffed by 42 doctors--both active and consulting--50 nurses and more than 250 support personnel. The ratio of nurses to patients in the hospital is one to five or six, compared with one to 20 or 25 patients at larger metropolitan hospitals.

Development in Mooresville began in the early 19th century. Samuel Moore came to the area in 1822, built a log cabin just south of the present town, and established the area's first trading post. In 1824, he laid out the town of Mooresville.

One of Mooresville's more prominent historical figures was Paul Hadley, a watercolor artist. In 1916, he entered a state-flag design contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and his design was chosen by the General Assembly the following year in honor of the state's 100th anniversary.

The community's more recent efforts to keep its economy vital have drawn notice from area economic-development officials. "Mooresville has done a good job of planning ahead and anticipating what's coming," says Reginald McCracken of the Morgan County Economic Development Corp. in Martinsville. "Eight to 10 years ago, concerned and farsighted community and business leaders saw the opportunity for Mooresville to grow. They're to be commended. Things just don't happen in a vacuum."
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Title Annotation:Indiana; economic development projects
Author:Beck, Bill
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Central Indiana update.
Next Article:Reprints R Us.

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