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North Central Indiana update.

North Central Indiana's economic health has remained relatively strong during the past year, with announcements of numerous expansions of existing companies and plans for new industries.

In addition to the news featured in the spotlight on Greater Lafayette, following are some of the business news highlights of the past year.

One of Tippecanoe County's oldest employers, the Lafayette Works of ALCOA's Extrusion-Tube System, has been adjusting for changing manufacturing methods and global competition. It's meant a reduction in workers from 1,350 to about 1,200.

On the plus side, the company has sought and obtained tax abatements for a possible $41 million investment in equipment to modernize and upgrade the 54-year-old plant. "This signals a renewed commitment to the local community," says Mike Brooks, president of Greater Lafayette Progress Inc.

State Farm Insurance Co. is spending $14 million to expand its West Lafayette regional office by a third, adding 80,000 square feet. Completion is anticipated in late 1994.

The Lafayette Caterpillar Inc. plant has increased employment from about 600 to just under 1,000. That includes some 250 executives transferred from the Peoria, Ill. headquarters as part of the company's decentralization. The plant makes diesel engines and generators, and recently announced an agreement with Morrison Knudsen Corp. of Idaho to use Caterpillar engines in its railroad locomotives.

Lafayette Venetian Blind Inc. moved to a new 250,000-square-foot plant last January. The company employs 500, who make window blinds, shades, draperies, bedspreads and other accessories. The family-owned company has maintained a steady growth path since opening in 1950.

Also in Lafayette, ground will be broken this fall on the Lafayette Ambulatory Surgery Center. The facility is being developed by Dr. Derek J. Sharvelle, an ophthalmic surgeon and principal of the Lafayette Eye Center. Ophthalmic outpatient care will be provided in the new facility, which will also accommodate other medical specialties, such as orthopedics, plastic surgery, gynecology and ear/nose/throat. The center is to open in April.

In Carroll County, Delphi is the corporate headquarters for the newly formed Chromcraft Revington Inc., a public company that has acquired two plants formerly owned by Mohasco Corp. of Fairfax, Va. One plant is Delphi's Peters-Revington Furniture Corp., which makes wood furniture. The other is Chromcraft, in Senatobia, Miss., which makes high-end casual dining furniture and airport and commercial office seating.

"We saw the benefits of taking these two public. There are synergies between the two companies," says Mike Thomas, president and CEO. An 18,000-square-foot expansion to the Delphi facility is currently under way.

Ground breaking is imminent for Oxford's new 40,000-square-foot Drug Plastics & Glass Co. plant, reports James Brown, director of the Benton County Community Development Corp. The Boyertown, Pa., company purchased 10 acres in mid July and hopes to begin production by early 1993. It will make plastic blow-molded bottles for the pharmaceutical and home health-care industries. Brown says the small community's quality of life, work ethic and highway system contributed to the company's choosing Benton County for its fourth U.S. plant.

Crawfordsville's Nucor Steel, which began operations in 1989, is investing $25 million in a plant and equipment expansion to add a hot-dip galvanizing line. It's a first for a flat-rolled steel plant, and the first value-added product for Nucor.

Production is scheduled to begin on the new line by the first quarter of 1993. The galvanized steel will be used to make guard rails, street signs, grain elevators and auto components.

The company currently employs about 430; 40 new positions are being added to accommodate the expanded production. Crawfordsville-made steel is shipped to points within about a 500-mile radius.

Snack food continues to be a big national seller, prompting one of Frankfort's two Frito-Lay plants to expand by 30 percent and add a new product. The company employs between 700 and 1,000, depending on the season.

Demand for Ruffles, Doritos and Cheetos keeps workers on the job around the clock at the company's core plant, built in 1980. An adjacent plant that opened in 1990 makes Sun Chips, Crunch Taters and the newest product, Cheetos Pods. The company also operates two warehouses and a transportation facility in Frankfort.

Steve Rockwell, executive vice president of the Peru/Miami County Economic Development Corp., can't stop talking about developments on Miami County's horizon.

Two-thirds of the county's industries expanded last year, spending $24 million. The Peru/Miami County Redevelopment Commission is developing 100 acres for the new North Miami Industrial Park.

Known for its industrial innovations such as the transistor radio, pneumatic tire and canned tomato juice, Kokomo is likely to add more to that list as Delco Electronics nears completion of its $41 million engineering center. The center will employ more than 500, mostly in technical positions.

In April, U.S. Reduction Co. broke ground in Tipton on a $10 million aluminum smelter, the Munster-based company's second Indiana plant. Jim Brannon, executive director of the Tipton County Economic Development Corp., says, "Its main customer is Chrysler in Kokomo. It's the first investment of this type we have had here. No one can remember the last time. Right now, all people can see in Tipton are cornfields. Soon they'll see a manufacturing facility."
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Regional Report: North Central
Author:Mayer, Kathy
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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