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Southeast Indiana update: the region's top business stories.

THE HONDA PLANT UP and running, a couple of new manufacturers and a $35 million hospital addition are among the good news in southeast Indiana. Also of note: a $38 million, multi-county education initiative and strong tourism industry in the region, which includes Dearborn, Decatur, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, Scott and Switzerland counties.

New manufacturing. Honda Civics are rolling off the lines at the new, $550 million Honda Manufacturing of Indiana LLC plant in Greensburg. Dedicated in November, the 1.7 million-square-foot Decatur County facility on 1,700 acres will ultimately produce 200,000 vehicles a year and employ 2,000 workers. About 900 were on the job in mid-December. The goal for 2009 is to make 194,000 cars, including the new Civic GX, a natural-gas vehicle, slated for production launch midyear.

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Honda's opening drew auto parts maker Belletech Corp. to Versailles. It's building a $4 million, 40,000-square-foot facility on a 4.7-acre tract, says Gary Norman, executive director of Ripley County Economic Development Corp. Plans are to employ 100 by 2012. It produces glass assemblies, component subassemblies and plastic injection molded parts. "They'll open late spring or early summer with about 50 employees," Norman says.

Industry expansions. Several of the region's industries have expanded or announced pending plans.

Morgan Foods Inc. in Austin is investing $8 million on a new building underway and a new cooker, says Robert Peacock, executive director of Scott County Economic Development Corp. Founded in 1899, the home-grown company produces private-label soups, beans, broths and gravies. The business employs 540. "They continue to do well," Peacock says. The company reports annualized growth topping 7 percent each of the last five years.

In Madison, Century Tube Corp. has added two roll-forming mills to increase production of rearview mirror tubes, ladder tubing and kitchen accessories, says Corey Murphy, executive director of Madison-Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp. It plans to boost employment from 100 to 125.

Also in Madison, R&T Steel and Wire Co. LLC has boosted employment from 100 to 130 because of its purchase of Hovair Automotive. R&T makes wire dog kennels and security panels for road projects.

Two businesses are growing in her area, says Vicki Kellerman, executive director of Greensburg/ Decatur County Economic Development Corp. Professional Fabricators LLC, a welding and fabrication shop in Greensburg employing 11, moved to a larger facility last fall. Alcan Packaging in Westport, which makes glass vials for the pharmaceutical industry and employs about 115, has purchased three acres adjacent to its facility and is planning to double its production capacity from 12 to 24 lines; no timeline is set.

The Hillenbrand/Batesville Casket name and facilities went through some changes in 2008, becoming two companies: Hill-Rom, which makes medical technologies and healthcare equipment; and Hillenbrand Inc., the holding company for Batesville Casket Co., which makes burial and cremation caskets, containers and urns, and display fixtures for funeral homes. Hill-Rom announced in January that it is moving its manufacturing operations from Charleston to Batesville, and eliminating 300 to 450 jobs from its national workforce. The two companies combined employ about 3,700 in Indiana.

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Healthcare. Dearborn County Hospital opened its $35 million, four-level patient tower in May. The addition includes a new main lobby, surgical waiting area, enclosed walkway to the garage, a medical/surgical nursing unit, patient rooms and more. "We're in the final stages of renovating areas of the original facility," says Anita Benning, director of community relations. "When completed later this year, we'll be an all-private-room hospital."

In Madison, King's Daughters' Hospital and Health Care Services is making plans for a new, $100 million facility. A groundbreaking date has not yet been set. It's expected to have 80 to 90 private patient rooms, women's center, emergency department, expanded outpatient services and an attached medical office building. The existing downtown hospital will continue to offer emergency services, a sleep center, Convenient Care Center and other operations.

Education, training. A 10-county, $38 million education initiative funded by Lilly Endowment began about a year ago and is now moving to implementation, says John Burnett, chief executive officer of the Community Education Coalition, based in Columbus. It's overseeing what's been dubbed Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015, [EcO.sub.15]

"We've been developing pathways to help young people and adults in four areas--advanced manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and tourism," he explains. "Each county has a coordinator and a plan for how they would help middle-school to post-secondary students connect to those careers." The funding covers a three-year effort.

In Butlerville, the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is experiencing success, reports, Kathy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Economic Development Commission. "The Indiana National Guard has created many alliances and partnerships for use of the training center, and we anticipate more to come," she says. "That's diversified our community."

Ready sites. Two communities report new sites have been designated shovel-ready by the state for fast-tract permitting on new construction. All of the 53-acre North Vernon Industrial Park and the full 100-acre Versailles Business Park are certified. "We're now working on a second shovel-ready site in Osgood," Norman says.

Tourism, Casinos. Ohio County is welcoming Red Wolf Sanctuary and Raptor Rehabilitation Center, reports Sherry Timms, executive director of the Rising Sun-Ohio County Convention, Visitors and Tourism Bureau. The nonprofit group has purchased 450 acres and is creating an education center that will be open to the public, nature photographers, school groups and others. Wildlife includes wolves, bears, coyotes, foxes, a cougar, bobcat, turkey vulture and water fowl. "The property is beautiful," she says. "It's a nice addition to our interesting, unique ball of twine in tourism."

Six groups have come together to create "A Vision for Switzerland County"--a focus on tourism activity. "We're through the building phase and are now in the an operational phase, under the wing of the tourism board," says Jon Bond, director of Switzerland County Economic Development.

Three casinos operate in the region: Belterra in Vevay and Grand Victoria in Rising Sun, each with about 40,000 square feet of gaming space, and Argosy in Lawrenceburg, with a 78,000-square-foot casino. Combined, they employ about 4,000 and offer about 1,100 hotel rooms.

"We're pretty happy with our casino, given the climate," says Bond. "Belterra is a pretty aggressive marketer and offers a good product." It paid out nearly $168 million in winnings in fiscal year 2008.

The Grand Victoria marks its 13th year in 2009. It paid out $147 million in casino earnings in 2008.

In Lawrenceburg, "Argosy continues to be the linchpin of the economy," says Roger Ruhl, marketing consultant for Dearborn County Economic Development Initiative. The casino is in the midst of a $3 l0 million expansion. It opened its skywalk and parking garage in May, and will debut a new casino this summer, doubling its space to 175,000 square feet that can accommodate 10,000 people. It paid out $465 million in winnings in 2008, the highest of all Indiana casinos.

Delays, Closings. The $460 million Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp. project at its Clifty Creek power plant in Madison is being delayed, Murphy reports. Plans are to stop activity by the end of the first quarter.

In Scottsburg, Hyosung America Inc. closed its steel plant at year end, terminating employment for 160, and Freudenberg Nok, which makes rubber products for the automotive industry, will close by the end of March, affecting 140 employees. Gecom Corp. in North Vernon also closed, a loss of 120 jobs at the auto door handle plant.
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Title Annotation:REGIONAL REPORT: SOUTHEAST
Author:Mayer, Kathy
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Industry overview
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Words:1256
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