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Three cities seek grant to boost manufacturing

October 16, 2013

Three central Indiana cities that have lost tens of thousands of auto industry jobs have joined together in seeking a $20 million federal grant aimed at helping attract new businesses to their empty factories.

The cities of Muncie, Anderson and New Castle have each put up $50,000 in matching money to $150,000 of federal funding toward strategy development on the grant proposals, The Star Press of Muncie reported.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is expected to award three $20 million grants from among 10 groups that received the strategy funding, said Roy Budd, president of the East Central Indiana Regional Planning District.

"Muncie alone was not a compelling enough case to receive such a large grant, $20 million, so we got the mayors of New Castle, Anderson and Muncie to work together in a bipartisan way," Budd said.

The three cities have lost more than 40,000 jobs in past decades with the closure of General Motors and Borg Warner factories and numerous auto-related suppliers and service businesses, according to the federal grant application submitted by Brad Bookout, brownfields development manager for the district.

Since peaking in the 1970s, Anderson alone has lost more than 27,000 GM jobs, Bookout reported to the federal agency.

Muncie also lost a GM transmission plant and its 3,000 workers in 2006, taking with it supplier New Venture Gear's 2,500 jobs. The city's workforce shrank by 9,350 workers between 2001 and 2012, a decline of 17.4 percent in only a decade. New Castle lost more than 4,000 jobs from closure of Chrysler facilities over the past two decades.

"We were the only region in Indiana to receive a planning grant and one of only 10 in the U.S.A.," Budd said. "Three of those 10 will receive $20 million, so we've got a 30 percent chance of being successful. I think our chances are better than that."

The $20 million grants are through Investment in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, an Obama administration initiative. The types of activities such grants would fund include construction of research institutions, business incubators and major public works projects to attract investment in manufacturing.

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