Getrag, Chrysler chose Tipton for convenience, identity

German transmission maker Getrag Corporate Group and Chrysler Group picked Tipton for their $530 million joint-venture transmission plant over Kokomo and a shovel-ready site at the former Grissom Air Force Base at Peru because it was the best compromise, according to a Chrysler official who helped arrange the deal.

Brian Harlow, Chrysler’s general manager of transmission, casting, machining and axle manufacturing, told the Kokomo Tribune that Tipton rose to the top in the two-year selection process because Getrag might have been overshadowed in Kokomo by Chrysler transmission plants there.

Grissom, which was recast as Grissom Aeroplex industrial park after the base was downsized in the 1990s, was ruled out because it was too distant of a commute for the anticipated work force.

Virtually all of the 1,050 hourly workers expected to be hired to open the plant in the summer of 2009 will be drawn from ranks of Chrysler workers in Kokomo as well as former Chrysler operations in New Castle and Indianapolis. Chrysler closed its Indianapolis foundry in 2005, eliminating about 900 positions.

Choosing Tipton, a farming town north of Hamilton County, allowed Getrag to keep its identity yet be accessible to Chrysler workers.

Work has been underway at the site near U.S. 31 and State Road 28 since early May. The project was announced June 18.

Dual-clutch transmissions to be made at the plant are expected to increase fuel economy about 6 percent in minivans, Sebrings and other Chrysler vehicles.

The opening of the 803,000-square-foot plant is not expected to result in a net gain in jobs for Indiana, due to job cuts at other Chrysler operations in the state.

Even so, the project ranks as the second-largest economic development project in the state since Honda Motor Co. announced a year ago that it would build a $550 million car assembly plant at Greensburg. Honda’s plant is to open in fall 2008.

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