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Top business stories: Western Indiana update.

On their way to building better business climates, two Western Indiana counties received a major boost when they were selected as Total Quality of Life Initiative communities by the Indiana Department of Commerce. Assisted by Ball State University's Department of Urban Planning, the new project was developed to help Indiana citizens evaluate and chart courses for their communities and counties.

"We all know strategic planning is the buzzword of the '90s, so we want to be proactive rather than reactive in our goals and objectives," says James Aydelotte, executive director of Greene County Economic Development Corp.

The TQLI process involves town meetings and a written survey. "We've had 3,500 surveys given to city and county officials, decision-makers and citizens. Our first town meeting will focus on where we are, where we're going and how to get there. The thoughts voiced at the meeting, coupled with the survey results, will be drafted in a plan to be presented at a final town meeting in the fall. The state also will compile an overall report of the project and governmental agencies will use it for urban and rural planning at the federal level."

Greene County's TQLI designation came at a pivotal point in its economic future. Though Aydelotte reported this time last year that General Electric Co.'s Motor Division in the county had just completed a major retooling and retraining program, the company eventually saw the need to close its doors this past summer. "We certainly hate to see GE leave. They were a very good employer with good benefits. Though 120 to 145 people are out of work, in every disappointment there is opportunity.

"At one time, the plant employed nearly 500 people," Aydelotte notes. "We know that a minimum of 75,000 square feet and the capacity of 200 to 400 employees is what other businesses look for to locate. The building is in good shape, and it's located in the industrial park so we can easily market the facility."

The quality of life in Greene County and surrounding counties is tremendously affected by Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. Second only to Indiana University in number of employees in South-Central Indiana, Crane is continuing to downsize, with 200 more jobs to be lost to early retirement by the end of 1994, according to Aydelotte. To further solidify its proactive stance, the country partnered with surrounding counties to form the Crane Regional Economic Development Organization (CREDO). "We knew we needed to gather regional data and provide linkages between the area businesses and Crane. We hope to attract spin-off businesses and ventures that will not only help Crane stay here but protect us with a stable business environment if Crane leaves."

A recent addition to Greene County's economic future is Don Jose Mexican Foods Inc. in Jasonville. Beginning production last March and now employing 14 people, the company creates gourmet Mexican food, including cornhusk pork tamales.

Sullivan County, another county selected as a TQLI site, also is sporting its first economic-development coordinator. Angie Turner is thrilled at the TQLI designation because it is "laying the groundwork for my job. TQLI is coming at a great time for our county. Though Sullivan County has known for a long time we needed assessments and planning done, the TQLI process is proving what our immediate needs are.

"Of the 10 counties in Indiana participating in TQLI, we've been told our response to surveys sent out has been the best so far. We know we need better roads, more jobs, medical facilities and activities for kids, and our town meeting demonstrated that land-use planning and infrastructure are our top priorities."

Of note in Vigo County is the recent announcement of yet another expansion of Roadway Global Air at Hulman Regional Airport in Terre Haute. In its first year of operation, RGA initially added 25,000 square feet to its original 45,000-square-foot facility, and it now plans to add 35,000 square feet this fall. "RGA began operations in September 1993 with 60 to 80 full- and part-time employees. They now have 200 with an increase expected once the expansion is completed," says Charles Goodwin, airport director.

As of August 15, Midway Connection airline is offering service from Terre Haute to Chicago's Midway Airport. At a time when other Indiana airports are losing airline service, Terre Haute is promoting a healthy market for fliers. "Our local travel agents say their greatest connection need is Chicago and with Chicago's new Orange Line train from Midway to The Loop, we can have fliers to their downtown destination in about an hour and a half," Goodwin says.

Goodwin also is pleased that the airport will be a hub of activity in September 1995 when the Farm Progress Show comes to Terre Haute. Parking 300 aircraft is a minimum requirement to land the show, so Goodwin already expects to increase staff and security to handle the traffic.

Another critical construction project in Vigo County, the Wabash River Coal Gasification Repowering Project, is right on schedule and is 50 percent complete. The project is to be fully operational in July 1995. A joint venture between PSI Energy Inc., Destec Energy Inc. and the U.S. Department of Energy, the project will employ about 110 people full-time upon completion. At any given time during construction, as many as 650 people are working on the site, says Jack Stultz, PSI's manager of operations for the project. "It's been said that we currently have the largest construction project in the state.

"The project is located adjacent to the 40-year-old Wabash River Generating Station and will use Indiana's high-sulfur coal to produce an environmentally sound and efficient energy source," Stultz explains. "We are on the leading edge of technology for gasification with this project and already have had many international visitors. Part of this power station will include the largest, most advanced gas turbine in North America."

PSI Energy prioritizes being a "good neighbor" with its development projects, says Gordon Ayer, PSI's community economic-development representative. "The utility industry is very large. Hopefully we'll see satellite operations open, like more machine shops to handle our repairs. We already have asphalt operators in line to use slag, one of the projects' byproducts. Slag has proven to work well in covering roads."

Vermillion County also is growing, says Mike Carty, president of the Clinton Industrial Development Corp. "Our industrial park at the Indiana 63 and 163 intersection already has an infrastructure, including a railroad spur, so we're trying to secure developers for that site," Carty says. (See more in City Spotlight on page 45.)

Putnam County reported last year that several companies were building or expanding. This year the good news has continued. Phil Junker, executive director at Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, says both Shenandoah Industries and Heartland Automotive, manufacturers of automotive plastic injection moldings in Greene County, have launched capital-improvement projects worth $6.5 million and $10 million, respectively.

Spencer/Owen County Economic Development Director Rachel Dayhuff says her part of the state has the best of both worlds. "We're economically healthy and growing. We're only 20 miles to Bloomington if you need a larger-city setting, or you can be low key in a rural setting. People are coming to Owen County looking for housing to get away from it all, and they're looking for jobs so they can stay here."

Though Bradford Manufacturing's closing left 50 people jobless, several companies are eyeing the 50,000-square-foot facility. "We have interested people for Bradford's site, and 120 acres are being considered for industrial use along Highway 43," Dayhuff says. "Quality Surfaces, manufacturers of Corian countertops, already is there. Dodd's Wood Products, makers of pallets from scrap timber, also is located in the area."

Medical device manufacturers Cook Inc., Boston Scientific and Biomedix, all are undergoing facility expansion and adding employees.

Clay County has enjoyed a steady growth pattern since 1993 and shows no signs of letting up, says Sandi Treaster, executive director for the Clay County Economic Development Organization. "We generated 450 new jobs in 1993 and are up 300 jobs in the first six months of 1994. Most of the expansion is through existing business. We have had a $5.3 million payroll increase in Clay County in just over a year."

Treaster attributes the increase to growth in the metals industries, especially in exports to Europe, the Far East, Canada, Russia and Mexico.

Two new manufacturing firms have taken up residence in Clay County, including Technifab, makers of specialty connection hoses for surgical gases, and Energenetics, extractors of corn protein from high-lysine corn to create value-added products.

In Parke County, last December saw the formation of the Parke County Redevelopment Commission, an outgrowth of the activities of the county chamber's economic-development program. Civic leaders made the switch so that the commission could seek governmental funding that would not have been available to a chamber-affiliated group.

The redevelopment commission also helped negotiate the sale of some CSX rail property to a manufacturer that hopes to expand, and persuaded CSX to keep active a portion of its line in an area that eventually will become an industrial park.
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Title Annotation:Regional Report: West
Author:Hayhurst, Susan
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1994
Previous Article:Trade show tips.
Next Article:Clinton.

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