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

FUNDING FOR INTERSTATE 69 and growing agribusiness, manufacturing and tourism are giving southwest Indiana an economic boost.

1-69 coming. "We've been waiting expectantly for 40-some years. This is a pretty big step, "says Paul Lake, director of Pike County Economic Growth and Development Council, speaking for the region about the state legislature's funding of Interstate 69.

In Gibson County, which will get three 1-69 interchanges, Todd Mosby, executive director of the Gibson County Economic Development Corp., says, "We're excited about what that will bring for this region."

1-69 will run parallel to the new 234-acre North Warrick Industrial Park near Elberfeld, owned by the Warrick County Redevelopment Commission, and that will help land new industries, says Judy Weatherholt, executive director of the Warrick County Economic Development Department. "The infrastructure to the park is complete, with the State Road 57 entrance constructed as well as access to water and sewer lines. We anticipate a lot of interest to be generated in the park."

Daviess, Greene and Martin counties are also eyeing a boon for the WestGate @ Crane Technology Park, a joint venture covering parts of each county that now encompasses 300 acres and could be expanded to 900 acres. Newcomers would join EG&G Technical Services, a subsidiary of government contractor URS Corp., which just moved its 60 employees to the park, where it provides contract research for Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane.

Agribusiness grows.

Four ethanol plants are in the works in Pike and Posey counties.

Nevada-based Ripatti Group has announced it will build a $200 million plant on 200 acres and process 20 million bushels of corn annually beginning in about three years, says Lake in Pike County.

Two more ethanol plants are slated for Posey County, reports Sally Denning, administrative director at the Posey County Chamber of Commerce. Aventine Renewable Energy will average 110 million gallons in annual production when it opens in fail 2008. St. Louis-based Abengoa Bioenergy Inc. has also announced plans to build, but construction has not yet begun. ASAlliances Biofuels LLC earlier began steps to launch an ethanol plant in the county.

In other agribusiness news, Farbest Foods, a turkey production company Dubois County, is expanding its Huntingburg operations. The company is building a new distribution center, contracting for an additional 3 million turkeys a year and adding 200 jobs to its workforce of 450.

Manufacturing expands.

Perry County tops the region's industrial news with an announcement by Tell City Marine Contractors LLC that it will build an $18 million barge-building facility at the former Maxon Marine shipyard, reports Carol Hagedorn, project manager at Perry County Development Corp. The facility will employ 150.

Evansville is the site of a $20 million, 600,000-square-foot distribution center being constructed by Berry Plastics Corp., which is also spending another $2.3 million to renovate its existing facilities. Work began this spring on land near the Evansville airport. The Evansville-headquartered company employs 1,200 in Indiana. Worldwide, it employs 6,500 at 25 facilities. The company makes plastic packaging products and has annual sales topping $1.5 billion

In Troy, Stewart Warner South Wind Corp. is spending $1.3 million on an expansion. The company makes heat exchangers for aerospace and other applications and will add 36 to its workforce of 152.

Another newcomer to the area is Ontario-based Brampton Brick Inc., which this year will build a $13.1 million plant that will be stocked with $28.4 million in equipment. It will be in Sullivan County, south of Farmersburg. The plant will employ 27 and produce 100 million bricks a year, says Marilyn Salesman at the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce.

Office furniture manufacturer OFS in Huntingburg is building a new, $8 million, 49,000-square-foot education/recreation and research/ development center on 500 acres. "They'll put clients up in a lodge setting to learn about the wood industry, and it will be a place for staff training, too," says Lake at the economic council.

Meanwhile, Futaba Indiana of America in Vincennes has installed a 2,500-metric-ton press to meet the ever-increasing demand for its frames made for Toyota. "They employed 70 when they opened in 2002 and now have more than 400,"

Gentry says. Its facility has grown from 117,000 square feet to 485,000 square feet. "They've done a stellar job in quality and timing and have been a fine supplier to Toyota."

Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Princeton announced in April that it would furlough 370 temporary workers by yearend because of declining Sequoia sales. The plant has been operating 11 years, producing about 300,000 vehicles a year and employs about 5,000.

Tourism draws. In Spencer County, known as Lincolnland because it was the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln, tourism is looking up, thanks to $1.6 million from the Indiana legislature to revive the "Young Abe Lincoln" show at Lincoln State Park.

The county is also home to Holiday World and Splashin' Safari amusement park in Santa Claus, which opened its 61st season this spring with $4.5 million in new additions. They include the Turkey Whirl, a themed tilt-a-whirl, and the 300-seat, cafeteria-style Plymouth Rock Cafe, featuring Thanksgiving dinner every day with outdoor seating. In 2006, the park welcomed more than one million visitors--a new record.

In Evansville, Casino Aztar, which can accommodate 2,700 passengers on its riverboat casino, has opened several new venues in what it calls The District. They include Ri Ra Irish Pub and Restaurant, Jillian's Billiards, the Le Merigot Hotel, Blush Ultra Lounge and Tapas Bar.

Other news. Evansville has landed an AT&T Indiana call center that will employ 565, with an annual payroll of nearly $13 million. The center will provide service and support to the company's wireless customers. AT&T has purchased a former Sam's Club site for $3.5 million for its operations and will invest $22 million total on the project.

Knox County expects a decision in the third quarter on the proposed $1.6 billion Duke Energy/Vectren Energy clean coal power plant in Edwardsport. It would take about 2,000 construction workers to build and then employ about 100.

The Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center is now open. The $32.5 million project by the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp. and Indiana Department of Workforce Development provides vocational-technical training to high school students, says Jim Holder-read, deputy director of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana. It also offers adult training programs.

The community also cut the ribbon on a new Ivy Tech Community College building and renovation, a $38.2 million investment covering 276,000 square feet.
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Author:Mayer, Kathy
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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