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Western Indiana update.

Retooling, retraining and refurbishing are the new three Rs on Western Indiana's economic chalkboard. Though sevral counties are seeing some new businesses locate to their communities, their economic-development officers are more likely to be helping existing firms upgrade facilities and educate their employees.

Greene County is an enthusiastic example of the three Rs all working together, says James Aydelotte, executive director of Greene County Economic Development Corp. "We've been working hard to keep our corporations here and their investments in our communities stable at a time when we knew they were considering leaving."

Aydelotte cites the recent possibility that Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center would close. It straddles Martin, Lawrence and Green counties and is Green County's largest employer. "Several counties banded together, traveled to Washington, D.C., and lobbied our case to keep the center open. Well, it's still here and now we're working on the next plan for 1995 when base closures are up for national discussion again."

Though Crane employs 930 Greene County citizens with an annual payroll of $30 million, several other companies engage hundreds of people and have recently undergone major capital improvements to retain them. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Reclamation recently moved into its new $950,000 office facility. "The building houses a state-of-the-art telecommunications system, which now allows them to be networked with other state and national offices," Aydelotte notes. The upgraded facility allows for the retention of 80 jobs and a $3 million payroll.

Retooling existing equipment and facilities during the last year enabled General Electric Co.'s Motor Division to create its own niche in the marketplace. "This GE plant makes aluminum die castings and punches steel parts for motors," Aydelotte explains. "GE decided to refocus these types of manufacturing from their other plants and channel it all to the Greene County plant. Now it's the only GE plant to manufacture these parts and is also allowed to accept contracts from outside companies."

The plant's $1.2 million investment helped 145 employees retain their jobs, and they were retrained with a $90,000 Indiana Department of Commerce grant, keeping the $4 million payroll in the immediate area.

Another exclusive product now home in Greene County is Sunbeam-Oster Corp.'s wrought iron line of furniture. Thanks to the retooling of Sunbeam's production line from outdoor aluminum furniture to wrought iron, employment has grown from 211 to 440, with a projected growth total of 500 jobs. Sunbeam also received a $36,000 IDOC grant to retrain employees and estimates the entire project's investment to total $2 million.

Retooling, retraining and refurbishing is also the name of the game in the aircraft industry these days as airlines battle a financial slump, unable to afford new planes but renovating existing aircraft. Patrick O'Leary of Terre Haute's Alliance for Growth and Progress says the Wabash Valley is continuing to reap the rewards of its aircraft-oriented industries, proximity to Indianapolis and exceptional educational facilities. "We've been able to announce good news this year with the arrival and construction of Roadway Global Air at Hulman Regional Airport, expansion of Tri-Industries and the opening of Ivy Tech's Indiana Center for Aviation Technology.

"Roadway is by far the most significant business to impact Terre Haute in the last year. This is a startup, a newly created company by its parent, Roadway Services Inc. based out of Akron, Ohio," O'Leary explains. "Roadway is one of the largest, soundest trucking firms in the U.S. Eighty percent of their 100 startup jobs here will be part-time. Twenty percent will be full time, mostly managers. There is a need for the part-time emphasis for two reasons. Roadway's air cargo only takes part-time work in the evenings and, secondly, it also offers a nice oppotunity for second-income families."

O'Leary further ntoes Roadway's contracted planes from Express One will fly in only in the evening and fly back out a few hours later, similar to the Evergreen company based at the Hulman airport several years ago. Roadway will only deal with packages 24 or more pounds. Service began September 13 with stops in 38 cities in the United States, Canada and abroad on the daily itinerary.

O'Leary is pleased that Roadway has already indicated this $100 million investment to be a long-term commitment to the Wabash Valley. "Terre Haute has been heavy in plastics and biotechnology for quite some time. Perhaps our future will be focused at Hulman Regional Airport and in the aircraft industry."

There is no doubt in Sam Borden's mind that Hulman Regional Airport is and will continue to be a business hub not only for Terre Haute but for Western Indiana as well. Borden, Ivy Tech's vice president for work-force development and its chancellor for West Central Indiana, says there are two reasons why the Wabash Valley area decided one and a half years ago to focus on the aviation industry. "First, we have an airport that is underutilized yet has wonderful transportation with Interstate 70 connecting Terre Haute and Indianapolis. Second, the aircraft industry is really into retrofitting and repair now, which particularly affects us with United Airlines going in Indy.

"So we decided we could create jobs and promote a pool of people for the aviation-repair industry. The center's building at the airport, which used to be the old Britt hangar, serves three purposes," he continues. "We wanted to provide full-time training programs, short-term training programs, which would be more job specific, and we wanted to grow companies into Indiana in aviation-related areas."

Growing other companies is already taking place, according to Borden. With the opening of Roadway, two contractual aircraft companies have already leased space in the center building through the Hulman Regional Airport Authority. Express One, a jet carrier, contracts with Roadway. Kittyhawk, a prop carrier, contracts with the U.S. Postal hub in Indianapolis.

The center is the result of a nearly $1 million investment of private, Ivy Tech and IDOC funds, Borden says. "Our long-term goal is to build an economic-development corridor between Indianapolis and Terre Haute."

This goal will be realized more quickly when companies like Terre Haute's Tri-Industries, a manufacturer and refurbisher of parts, announces expansions. "Tri-Industries' clients are Pratt-Whitney, Rohr, United and Boeing," says O'Leary. "As part of the expansion, 50 employees will be added to Tri-Industries. We also predict that Roadway and Tri-Industries will be working together in the future."

Of additional note in Vigo County is The Geon Co., a manufacturer of vinyl compounds. The former B.F. Goodrich division recently received a U.S. Senate Productivity Award, presented by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. The award recognized improvements in cost, quality, plant attendance and safety records, as well as Geon's service attitude of sharing with other Indiana businesses its plant's experience with gain sharing and focus teams.

Also in the Terre Haute area, the Wabash River Coal Gasification Repowering Project continues. PSI Energy and Destec Energy are building the power plant that will operate using a process that turns coal into gas. It's an environmentally sound way to use high-sulfur coal, and the plant is to go on-line in 1995.

Sandi Treaster, executive director for the Clay County Economic Development Organization, says the economic corridor between Terre Haute and Indianapolis already is in place and Clay County is reaping the benefits. "We have two direct impacts in Brazil from Roadway coming to Terre Haute and United coming to Indianapolis. First, we have two metal industries to do business with United. D&S Manufacturing is a Federal Aviation Administration-approved company wtih 25 to 30 employees, and Deakins Metal Spinning is one of two metal-spinning companies left in Indiana, with about 30 employees.

"Second," Treaster continues, "our housing market in Clay County is excellent. The West Coast transfers for these big companies will be real happy when they see what they can buy for their money, and our transportation venues make it easy."

Treaster also notes that Great Dane Trailers Inc. just completed its internal $4 million expansion and addition of 240 employees.

Continuing the economic upswing eastward to Putnam County brings news of two new capital investments. F.B. Distro, distribution center for Fashion Bug clothing, recently announced a $30 million expansion, including a 200,000-square-foot addition, new equipment and 40 to 50 new jobs. Phil Junker, executive director at Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center, also says Lobdell/Emery, an automotive parts manufacturer, is undergoing a $3 million capital-improvement project and creating 40 more jobs over two years.

Sullivan County is slowly bu surely seeing the positive economic impact of its new prison. John Meng, executive director of Sullivan County REMC and a member of the county's Economic Development Steering Committee, says the construction and opening of the Wabash valley correctional Institute at Carlisle has "generated a spinoff in the country. We have had an increase in sales of supplies and construction materials and employment since the venture began."

The maximum-security prison's construction is now complete, and employment stands at about 300 people, most of whom live in Sullivan County or surrounding areas. When the prison becomes fully operational, some 550 people will be employed there. "The first inmates needing a lesser degree of security arrived last November and the prison is now close to admitting its first maximum-security prisoners. We expect 1,100 inmates to be here by the first of the year."

As Sullivan County plans to formally create an economic-development office in 1994, Vermillion County is in the midst of developing an industrial park. Bob Rendaci, a member of the Clinton Industrial Development Corp., says his organization's key focus is development of the interchange at U.S. 63 and Indiana 163. "We're pushing for more fast-food and hotel development along with the industrial park. We have several tracts available, some up to 300 acres and one with the infrastructure already in place."

Rendaci also notes that PSI Energy recently acquired the land around the Cayuga Generating Station to promote industrial development using available steam energy.
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Title Annotation:Regional Report West
Author:Hayhurst, Susan
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.
Next Article:Columbia House.

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