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Southeastern Indiana update.

"I think the biggest news has been the expansion and retention," says Robert Bostic, executive director of the Greensburg Area Chamber of Commerce in Decatur County.

In 1986, the Decatur chamber bought land on the edge of town and started the Decatur County Commerce Park. Today, the former cornfield is home for about 2,000 jobs, including some at five foreign-owned companies. The growth in the park and expansion in older businesses, such as Delta Faucet, have kept Decatur County's economy stable with slow growth--a description used by economic-development officials to describe almost every county in the region for the past year.

Ted Spurlock, president of the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce in Versailles, also believes the region's economy is on the upswing. The county is home to Hillenbrand Industries and subsidiaries including Batesville Casket Co., the nation's top casket producer. Ripley will hire a full-time economic-development director this year to focus on helping existing industry as well as search for new ones.

Union County, a quiet farming area, continues to depend on agriculture and tourism drawn by swimming, boating, camping and places like Whitewater State Park.

Lois Clark, executive secretary of the Brookville-Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, says the county of about 20,000 saw stability but little growth in 1993. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., which employs 141, was one of the more aggressive in growth last year, she says. Other companies added shifts and a few jobs during the year.

Dan Drexler, executive director of the Rush County Economic Development Corp., also uses the word "stable" when describing 1993. He and Rushville Mayor John McCane say the highlight was the sale of an old factory site--the former Schnadig Furniture Co.--to Jordan Manufacturing of Monticello. The new owners paid the city $100,000 for the building and will eventually turn part of the 360,000-square-foot space into a business incubator.

INTAT Precision, a company that makes brake parts, and Fujitsu Ten Corp.-America, maker of audio systems for the Toyota market, both added employees. Trane Co., the anchor of the county industrial park, moved a production line from Canada to Rushville.

Fayette County, which has suffered higher unemployment than many of its southern neighbors, also is taking aggressive steps to help existing industry grow. The county sold land in its new industrial park. Ground was broken in the fall for a new warehouse for Fowler Automatic, a vending service. The warehouse created only a handful of jobs, but is a psychological boost and a sign of a turnaround, says Scott Bevington, the new executive director of the Fayette County Industrial Development Corp.

The year ended on a sour note, though, with continued layoffs at Frigidaire. The appliance maker once had more than 2,000 employees. It began this year with about 300.

Shelli Sedam, executive vice president of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson County, says the best news in her county of 29,000 was the purchase of land for a business incubator. "It's been in the process for quite a long time," she says.

The area's diverse economic base, as well as the possibility of riverboat gambling and resulting increase in tourism, should keep the economy from faltering, Sedam believes. Riverboat gambling was approved by three neighboring counties--Dearborn, Ohio, Switzerland--though not all will necessarily be given licenses.

Riverboat gambling was the biggest news for Dearborn County in 1993, says Bill Mountsier, executive director of the county chamber. "The impact of riverboat gambling will be enormous," he says. His county of about 39,000 also is home to many who work in Ohio. Cincinnati is just across the line.

Nanci Ross with the Ohio County tourism bureau says the "smallest county by area and population in the United States" saw some big signs of economic improvement and the possibility of riverboat gambling. The county, already a tourist haven because of the river and the countryside, expects more visitors when a newly formed boat company begins offering trips between Louisville and Cincinnati this year. Boats will stop in select Southern Indiana towns along the way. Prestine Chapman, director of the Switzerland County tourism bureau, also says the elections clearing the way for riverboat gambling will be what 1993 will be remembered for in her county of about 7,800.

The future gambling dollars will surpass tobacco and agriculture in impact on the economy, Chapman believes. She expects tourism dollars to multiply, even before gambling is established sometime in 1995. The Cincinnati-to-Louisville paddlewheel also will be making this county a regular stop. "They will be able to get off the boat and come into town to shop," she says.
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Title Annotation:Regional Report: Southeast
Author:Price, Larry
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 1994
Words:771
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