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Severe weather shuts down business in metro area

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Commerce in the Indianapolis metro area ground to a halt Monday morning, as businesses and government offices stayed closed to help employees and customers avoid dangerous winter weather.

The closings included state and local government, corporate headquarters, factories and retail stores.

Ball State University economist Mike Hicks predicted losses in the tens of millions of dollars from the cost of snow removal, the mobilization of extra manpower, and damages to property, especially if damage to homes is significant.

But the shutdown of travel and everyday transactions isn't permanent, so much of that business will be recouped later, Hicks noted.

“These sorts of closings are not uncommon, and this one is probably well-timed, coming as it does at the early part of the year,” he said.

Large companies including OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc., Eli Lilly and Co. and Rolls-Royce Corp. closed their downtown headquarters Monday.

Lilly spokesman Ed Sagabiel said essential employees reported to work, and drug production was not affected. Jet-engine maker Rolls-Royce canceled all shifts of factory work, spokesman George McLaren said. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana canceled the first shift at its Greensburg plant.

Several Simon-owned malls in the area closed for the day (Hamilton Town Center, Fashion Mall, Clay Terrace) or delayed their openings to 2 p.m. or later (Castleton Square, Circle Centre, Greenwood Park and Washington Square).

Fishers-based Forum Credit Union – the largest credit union in the area – closed all locations, and Old National Bank delayed opening until noon.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard urged businesses to stay closed Tuesday as well, because subzero temperatures are expected to continue.

Kroger, however, was doing its best to keep stores and regional operations going. Six stores in Indiana were closed or partly closed, spokesman John Elliott said. One of the stores that remained open, at 71st Street and Binford Boulevard, lost power Sunday and ran on a generator.

Distribution centers, the bakery and dairy were struggling to catch up on restocking after record sales Friday and Saturday. They were running about 24 hours behind, partly because Kroger gave employees the option to stay home for personal safety, Elliott said.

The storm was well-timed for the FedEx distribution hub at Indianapolis International Airport. The company does not sort packages on Sundays, so there were no FedEx flight cancellations on Sunday, during the height of the storm, Indianapolis Airport Authority spokesman Carlo Bertolini said.

“It's our understanding they plan a normal operation today,” he said.

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