Muncie leaders keeping close eye on vehicle project

Muncie officials are keeping a close eye on a project that promised to bring hundreds of jobs to the city, saying the company's production schedule doesn't match up with timeframes announced last year when it received pledges of millions in local and state incentives.

South Carolina businessman Gary Dannar announced last year that he expected to employ 20 people at DD Dannar LLC in Muncie by the end of 2014 and begin producing his Mobile PowerStation vehicle in the city. The vehicle is designed to offer government and military purchasers a means to power separately purchased tools and provide "off-grid power" at accident scenes.

Dannar told The Star Press that the work on the vehicle is currently being done in Detroit and Greenville, S.C.

In June 2013, Dannar received local promises of a $150,000 loan, free rent for three years in the former Twoson Tool building and $500,000 in improvements to the building. The state of Indiana offered up to $2.6 million in tax credits dependent on job-creation goals being met.

A June 19, 2013, news release from the Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance announcing the project said Dannar planned to create 288 jobs and invest $4.65 million in real estate improvements in four years. The announcement said the number of employees would grow to 479 in the fifth year.

Delaware County Council member Ron Quakenbush, who voted against the incentives for Dannar, said he's skeptical that a market for the product exists and is disappointed that the work so far is being done outside Muncie.

"One of the main reasons he came here is we're such a welcoming group of people, wanting him to come here to do his work, and now he's doing his work in two other states," Quakenbush said. "That's very disappointing."

Local officials have been watching the project carefully after being burned in recent years by investments in companies that failed to deliver on promises to create jobs. In most of those cases, the local money was lost — including $1.5 million invested in a German company that promised to create 100 jobs making wind-and-solar-powered streetlights.

Dannar notified the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission recently that "off-site construction of the first demonstrate-able production unit" was occurring and that "key" employees were "engaged" and expected to relocate to Muncie in the third and fourth quarters of this year.

Dannar told The Star Press he was surprised there was any expectation that he would have created jobs and produced vehicles locally within a year of the announcement.

"In our minds, it was 20 people by the end of 2014," he said.

County Commissioner Larry Bledsoe said local leaders have been assured that Dannar is on track.

Dannar said he is optimistic about his company's future in Muncie.

"Everybody agrees we picked a great city. We picked a great place and the time has never been better for this product," he said.

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