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Northern Indiana update.

The year 1992 was a time of economic recovery or restructuring in several Northern Indiana counties. A recovery was most noticeable in Elkhart County, where the highly cyclical recreational-vehicle industry is the largest component of the manufacturing sector.

Meanwhile, there was a less pronounced recovery in Kosciusko County last year for a very good reason: It hardly felt the impact of the 1991 recession in the first place.

In South Bend, the largest city in the north-central part of the state, the manufacturing sector continued to restructure. Two large factories announced closings but a California firm announced plans to open a large plant in a much ballyhooed new industrial park.

Important economic developments also occurred in Marshall, Fulton and Lagrange counties in 1992 and early 1993.

Marshall County economic-development officials successfully recruited a corrugated paper manufacturer from Toledo, Ohio, while in Fulton County, two auto and truck industry supplier firms grew, creating about 60 new jobs.

In Lagrange County, located east of Elkhart County, the Amish-oriented Shipshewana tourist area had an excellent year. RV and manufactured-housing firms from Elkhart County also expanded into Lagrange County or revived struggling firms in that county.

Certainly, the 235 former employees of the Toro lawn and garden tractor plant and the 260 former employees of the Allied Products plant (better known in South Bend as Mastic) will face difficult challenges as they look for new jobs or enter retraining programs. But the loss of manufacturing jobs was somewhat offset by the decision by Accuride International Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., to build a new plant in South Bend's Airport 2010 industrial park.

Accuride, producer of ball-bearing drawer slides for office-furniture manufacturers, will create about 250 jobs when it opens its new plant this summer. "For Accuride, the key was South Bend being in the middle of a strong office market (found in the Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis areas) and because we're near major furniture manufacturers such as Steelcase in Grand Rapids," says Steve Queior, president of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County.

The Airport 2010 development area is one of two large suburban office parks in South Bend and neighboring Mishawaka. Airport 2010 got a big boost from Accuride's decision to locate there, and Queior believes the mixed-use development area "will really take off in 1994."

Accuride will also use steel from the huge I/N Tek cold-rolled steel plant, a joint venture of Inland Steel and Nippon Steel, located a few miles west of South Bend. "We are starting to see some synergies" from the I/N Tek and I/N Kote operations, Queior says.

Airport 2010 gets its name from being next to the Michiana Regional Airport, located near the junction of the Indiana Toll Road and the U.S. 20 bypass on South Bend's northwest side. It includes space for offices, warehousing and light manufacturing, along with proposed amenities such as an upscale destination hotel and championship golf course.

The other major suburban office park in St. Joseph County is Edison Lakes in Mishawaka, the location of National Steel's new headquarters. National Steel moving its headquarters from Pittsburgh was the most significant event of 1992 for several reasons, Queior says. "Corporate headquarters are always significant, and it put Edison Lakes over the top. It gives you credibility; you'll see it snowball from here."

The impact of National Steel, which brought 500 high-paying jobs to the region, was also felt to the east in Elkhart County, says David Germain, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

"We've gotten a lot of benefits, real-estate agents sold a lot of houses, the money's flowing in," Germain says. Otherwise, the recovery of the RV and manufactured-housing sector was the major economic event in Elkhart County, creating a problem many communities would love to have: a labor shortage.

The number of jobs in transportation-equipment manufacturing in Elkhart County, the category that includes RV firms, increased 10 percent between 1991 and 1992 to an average of 16,700 jobs in 1992, according to Workforce Development Services of Northern Indiana.

"The labor market is as tight in the Elkhart-Goshen area as it was in 1987-88," the two most recent boom years, says Ken Hagedorn, an Elkhart-based personnel consultant to small manufacturers. "Companies cannot get good production people, but in the white-collar, management-office work areas, more people are available than is normal."

At the end of 1991, Elkhart lost 600 highly paid manufacturing jobs when American Home Products Corp. permanently closed its Whitehall Division drug packaging plant. "Where would we be in terms of a labor shortage had Whitehall remained?" Germain asks rhetorically.

In Kosciusko County, people did not feel the recession much because recession-resistant orthopedic-instruments manufacturing is the core of its economy, says Rob O'Brian, president of the Greater Warsaw Chamber of Commerce.

Warsaw is the home base of three of five of the world's largest orthopedic-implant device manufacturers: the Zimmer Division of Bristol-Myers Squibb Corp.; the DePuy unit of Boehringer Mannheim Corp.; and Biomet Inc., a large independent in the field.

Zimmer, the market-share leader, opened a new, 108,000-square-foot headquarters office building in downtown Warsaw, which has enlivened the downtown area, O'Brian says. "There was steady, but not rapid growth on the part of the 'Big Three,'" he adds.

Other niche orthopedic-products manufacturers either opened in Warsaw or had strong years. The Memphis, Tenn.-based Danek Group Inc. has its largest manufacturing plant in Warsaw. It bought the former Warsaw Orthopedic Inc. prior to its public stock offering two years ago.

Danek makes spinal implant devices in Warsaw and the company's sales increased 82 percent in 1992 to $75.5 million. Its earnings increased 98 percent to $13.1 million, or 74 cents a share. Danek shares are traded on the national over-the-counter market.

Lake Medical Group Inc. went into business in Warsaw July 1 and had created 35 jobs as of early this year, says Jack Kelly, its president. It makes tiny endoscopic surgical instruments for minimal-invasive surgical procedures.

Meanwhile, in Plymouth, the Marshall County seat, 17 companies expanded in 1992 or early 1993, and the community was able to persuade Viking Paper Corp. of Toledo, Ohio, to move into a vacant building in the Pidco Industrial Park.

Plymouth is at the junction of U.S. 30 and U.S. 31, both four-lane, divided highways. The excellent transportation system played a pivotal role in Viking's decision to select Plymouth, says William Neal, executive director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce. Initially, Viking will employ about 25 people making corrugated material. Employment could expand to a total of 35 people, Neal adds.

In Rochester, Fulton Industries Inc., which does machining for auto and heavy-equipment manufacturers, moved to a new plant and expanded its work force from 90 to 120, says Dave Damron, executive director of the Fulton Economic Development Corp.

Shortly after Fulton Industries moved out of its plant, a new company, Special Processing Inc., moved in. Special Processing also does machining for auto and heavy-equipment makers. It created 30 new jobs after it went into operation, Damron says.

In Lagrange County, Jayco Inc., an RV manufacturer based in Middlebury in Elkhart County, expanded by leasing a portion of a boat manufacturer's complex in Lagrange, creating 65 new jobs.

Early this year, a group of Elkhart investors revived a financially troubled manufactured-housing company in Shipshewana, saving 50 jobs. The new manufactured housing company in Shipshewana is called New Holly Park Inc.

However, Lagrange County economic development officials are still looking for a buyer for a warehouse complex, with eight acres under roof, at the Indiana Toll Road and Indiana 9 near Howe.

It's only a matter of time before the huge warehouse complex is sold, says Deborah Terrell, executive director of the Lagrange County Chamber of Commerce.
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Title Annotation:economic development
Author:Kurowski, Jeff
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:Mishawaka.
Next Article:Schult Homes: a pioneer in Elkhart County's RV and manufactured-housing industry.

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