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Tipton could land economic development prize

April 12, 2007

Indiana might be on the verge of landing the largest economic development plum since Honda Motor Co. announced in June that it would build a $550 million assembly plant in the southeastern Indiana city of Greensburg.

Getrag Corporate Group, a German company that specializes in manufacturing transmissions, is likely to announce in the next few weeks where it will locate a $560 million plant that will serve Daimler-Chrysler, said Bill Kier, who heads economic development in Tipton County, north of Indianapolis.

Earlier this month, Getrag filed a preliminary plan with the Tipton County Plan Commission for a plant that would occupy the northeast quadrant of the intersection of U.S. 31 and State Road 28. The plan calls for building a total of 700,000 square feet on 228 acres.

The company announced Feb. 9 that it had signed an agreement with Daimler-Chrysler to develop and manufacture dual-clutch transmissions for the German automaker. The clutch is more fuel-efficient than conventional torque converter automatics or continuously variable transmissions, Getrag said.

Kier said Getrag officials have said repeatedly that the plant would employ 1,200 and that an announcement is likely in early May.

Such a plant would be a massive shot in the arm for Tipton, a farming community situated between Westfield and Kokomo that fretted when Pioneer Hi-Bred International Co. abandoned a seed-processing operation a couple of years ago.

The plant would spring up at the only major intersection in the county.

Kokomo, which boasts three Daimler-Chrysler transmission plants, also has been courting Getrag. However, Getrag has filed no plans there, and Kier said he is not aware of Getrag’s filing a plan anywhere else.

Kier thinks production positions would be organized by the United Auto Workers.

Honda plans to assemble 200,000 Civic sedans when the plant opens in fall 2008. The plant will employ 2,000.

The Honda plant already is sending economic ripples throughout the state, as suppliers line up to make parts for the cars.

Getrag won’t produce as much spin-off economic development, Kier said. Still, he hopes suppliers in the Kokomo and Indianapolis areas will get parts contracts.

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