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Renewable-energy firm eyeing Tipton County plant

September 28, 2009

A renewable-energy firm is considering manufacturing solar panels in an empty Tipton County plant where transmissions were to be built for Chrysler automobiles, according to the Kokomo Tribune.

Sources told the newspaper that the company is based in the western part of the country and could create up to 800 jobs. A deal hinges on the company’s ability to secure a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, the sources said.

The Tipton County Commissions, County Council and Redevelopment Commission are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss details about a potential deal.

Kenny Ziegler, president of the County Commissioners, told the Tribune he is “optimistic” that the building will be occupied soon.

Tipton County reportedly is one of two locations the renewable-energy firm is considering. The other site could be in Nampa, Idaho, according to Idaho television station KTVB. It reported that a solar-panel firm is exploring a potential location there.

In addition, the Howey Political Report newsletter is reporting on its Web site that Fiat SpA/Chrysler is preparing a bid for the abandoned plant.

Getrag Manufacturing LLC filed for bankruptcy in November and halted work on the plant in Tipton County after its partnership with Chrysler LLC collapsed. A federal bankruptcy court in Detroit turned the facility over to a trustee group consisting of contractors still owed money on the project. The court set a minimum price of $45 million for the property.

The joint venture around a new, fuel-efficient transmission was the sole reason for building the nearly 800,000-square-foot factory at the crossroads of U.S. 31 and State Road 28.

Work on the $530 million project came to a halt last October. The factory is 80-percent complete, and it has taxpayer-financed road and utility service.

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