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EDITORIAL: Signs of hope as many retreat: Some shrug off economic fears

October 6, 2008

Signs of hope as many retreat Some shrug off economic fears The front page of this week's IBJ tells of companies that are in dire straits-or out of business-after banks, jittery about a financial collapse, called their loans or canceled their credit line. Stories like these put a local face on the economic crisis that has gripped the American psyche in the last two weeks unlike anything since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Anyone who didn't realize credit's vital role in greasing the wheels of the U.S. economy knows better by now. But not everyone is defeated or playing defense. Some companies, seemingly undaunted by the scary news out of New York and Washington, D.C., are charging ahead.

Eli Lilly and Co. CEO John Lechleiter made it known recently that the local pharmaceutical giant is on the prowl for acquisitions. And at IBJ deadline, it looked as if Lilly was making good on Lechleiter's promise. There were reports, unconfirmed by Lilly, that the company is in talks to buy New York biotech firm ImClone Systems for a whopping $6.1 billion, a blockbuster deal that would be one of the largest in Lilly's history. In September, ImClone Chairman Carl Icahn cited ongoing negotiations with a large pharmaceutical firm in turning down an offer from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

On the same day the Lilly news came out, local email marketing firm ExactTarget announced a $25 million expansion that would add 300 technology specialists, software developers, administrators, and sales and marketing specialists here over the next five years. The expansion would almost double the head count at ExactTarget, which employs 340. The new jobs would fill much of the historic and recently rehabbed Gibson Building at Michigan Street and Capitol Avenue.

Trimedx LLC, a locally based firm that maintains health care equipment, also is adding jobs. It plans to hire 108 people here as part of a $1.4 million expansion. Trimedx is a unit of Ascension Health, the nation's largest not-for-profit health care system, which also owns St. Vincent Health.

DowAgroSciences LLC hasn't put the brakes on its acquisition spree. It announced Sept. 30 that it would buy most of the assets of Carroll, Iowa-based Renze Hybrids Inc. It would be the sixth acquisition in the last year by DowAgroSciences, which is trying to strengthen its seed business.

The U.S. economy has real problems that need to be addressed, but part of the gloom of recent weeks was caused by a crisis of confidence. In spite of a hard-toexplain September uptick in the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, it's safe to say fear of economic calamity is at a recent high.

But these hard-charging local companies weren't cowering-at least not as IBJ's deadline approached and Congress appeared on the verge of approving a rescue plan lawmakers could tolerate.

Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, companies in certain industries-and those with strong balance sheets-should continue to grow.



To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.
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