Getrag plant might be attractive to buyer

Getrag won’t exactly have a white elephant on its hands if the German company is unable to make transmissions in its partially completed plant at Tipton.

The 900,000-square-foot plant might work well for another auto supplier or even another use outside of manufacturing, experts say.

Getrag’s plans to build a fuel-efficient dual-clutch transmission for Chrysler LLC slipped into reverse when the Detroit automaker ended the agreement on Oct. 17, saying its partner had not secured promised financing for the $530 million project. Getrag, however, countered that Chrysler rejected a financing plan it offered.

The collapse leaves the plant 80-percent complete, not including equipment that had been planned for the facility, said Getrag spokeswoman Michelle Culver.

Getrag has said it hopes to find another customer for which to make transmissions in the new plant. And Getrag officials met with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. last week to discuss the situation, but details were not made public.

Getrag located the plant near Tipton – north of Indianapolis and south of Kokomo – where Chrysler operates transmission plants. Some of the work from those plants was expected to be shifted to the new Getrag facility, which is on 103 acres along U.S. 31.

The highway location is an advantage for Getrag if the company can’t find another transmission customer and needs to sell the plant, said Abbe Hohmann, a senior vice president at the Indianapolis commercial real estate brokerage Colliers Turley Martin Tucker.

Noting the highway is slated for widening from Indianapolis to South Bend, Hohmann said, “Its general location is good.”

The widening is to be completed in stages. Groundbreaking for a segment in the Kokomo area took place in September. Construction on a stretch from 216th Street in Hamilton County to slightly north of Westfield is to start in 2010.

The building is clearly designed for manufacturing. Floors are 8 inches to a foot thick. And the ceilings are 26 to 35 feet high.

Another manufacturer could easily find the building attractive, said Tom Cooler, senior vice president at the local office of the brokerage CB Richard Ellis.

The building also might work in certain circumstances for a distribution center, Cooler said.

A key to its feasibility as a warehouse is the roof pillars being spaced 50 feet apart, he said. Getrag’s Culver said the pillars are on 50-foot centers in the production and warehouse areas of the building.

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