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Western Indiana update.

What do coal gasification, a prison and refrigerated trucks have in common? All will mean more jobs for the Wabash Valley in coming years.

In 1992, employment gains have been seen in the plastics industries, the pharmaceuticals business, the construction trades and the service sector. Most counties in Western Indiana will see expansions by resident industries as the companies add equipment and space.

The expansions and growth can't come quickly enough. Unemployment rates have been unusually high in the area throughout the year, and labor market analysts predict further increases before the year's end. The labor force has increased, but some sectors have seen less-than-significant job growth.

Pat O'Leary, executive director of Terre Haute's Alliance for Growth and Progress Inc., says the unemployment rates are not a surprise, considering the national economy. But the rates don't tell the whole story, he adds.

"We draw from so many counties that aren't reflected in the Terre Haute rate," he says, noting that area employers draw workers from Eastern Illinois and Indiana counties such as Marion and Hendricks.

These employers draw more than workers; they draw a lot of national attention. O'Leary says the strength of the economy is still plastics and biotechnology, but other companies are helping spread the word about Western Indiana. "We've got the largest mail-order company in the United States. We've got the largest polyethylene plant in the world. We've got the largest trailer manufacturer in the world. We've got the largest compact-disc producer in the world."

By far the biggest area news of the year is PSI Energy Inc.'s coal gasification project in West Terre Haute, scheduled to begin this fall at the company's Wabash River Generating Station. The project was awarded $240 million by the U.S. Department of Energy and will cost an estimated $590 million to construct and operate for a three-year demonstration period.

It involves innovative technology which will use a broader range of coal to produce energy. Traditionally, only low-sulfur coal is used by power companies. But coal gasification will allow PSI to operate its plant with higher-sulfur coal, which could provide a big boost to Midwest mining companies. "This project is so major, especially with the Department of Energy involved, that the whole country will be looking at this project," O'Leary says.

In other area news, Columbia House Inc. recently announced its purchase and plans to renovate a 100,000-square-foot building. The mail-order company ships compact discs, audio- and videocassettes and laser discs from Terre Haute.

Columbia House's neighbor, Digital Audio Disc Corp., also has announced expansion efforts. A $13 million investment in new equipment will be used to manufacture compact and laser discs, and packaging. A $12.1 million expansion to house the company's mini-disc production begins this fall. The company will manufacture 500,000 mini discs per month, with production expected to grow.

Just down Fruitridge Avenue from Columbia House and DADC, Ampacet Corp. also will begin construction on its own expansion. This 20-year-old plastics manufacturer plans a 100,000-square-foot warehouse expansion as a storage and distribution center.

Both of Terre Haute's acute-care hospitals recently kicked off expansions. Union Hospital is nearing completion of its Center for Occupational Health. The project is Union Hospital's first off-site development in its 100-year history. Across town, Terre Haute Regional Hospital broke ground for its $11.2 million rehabilitation center, which will create about 170 full-time jobs and is expected to open in the spring of 1993.

Meanwhile, Charter Hospital, a psychiatric facility, opened a child and adolescent diagnostic center in July.

The big news near the Sullivan County community of Carlisle is, and has been, two new state prisons under construction. A $56 million maximum-security facility will bring about 550 new jobs to the area. It will be a 650-bed unit and is set to open this fall. The second prison will be a $56.5 million medium-security facility, for which construction dates haven't yet been set.

Local businessmen hope to bring more than prisoners to Carlisle. The Wabash Industrial Development Co. opened in June, offering a 130-acre industrial park.

In Clay County, Great Dane Trailers Inc. announced plans to boost employment by 250 early in 1993. The added employment will follow completion of a new manufacturing line to produce containers that travel on special rail cars and can be used with special chassis for delivery to and from rail yards.

Eli Lilly & Co. is definitely the star in Vermillion County's crown. The company is working on a $500 million expansion project at its Clinton Laboratories site. The expansion, which began in 1990, provides manufacturing capacity for the company's newest antibiotic, Lorabid. Expanded operations have created 340 new jobs since 1990.

"They're really good about using local labor and buying locally, so that dollar stays in the community," says Diana McMillan, executive director of the Vermillion County Improvement Association.

In Putnam County, Wal-Mart is the latest company to move in. The retailer chose Greencastle for a 1,000,000-square-foot distribution facility. Thousands of tourists, meanwhile, are expected to drop by to visit the new Putnam Park Road Course, a Grand Prix-style race track.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Regional Report: Terre Haute & Western Indiana
Author:Wright, Lydia
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Words:851
Previous Article:Greencastle.
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