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Shelbyville ad campaign luring Honda recruits

June 5, 2008
An advertising blitz launched by Shelbyville officials to lure workers arriving at the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in nearby Greensburg is working, one of its backers says.

Dan Theobald, executive director of Shelby County Development Corp., is aware of at least seven families that have settled in Shelbyville as a result of the campaign, and he is certain more are arriving.

Shelbyville probably would have missed out on the growth had it not rolled out the welcome mat to Honda workers coming from existing plants in Ohio and Alabama, Theobald said.

"The majority would have looked more south, toward Cincinnati," he said.

Since launching the "Welcome Honda" campaign in March 2007, the Web site has logged 207,000 hits.

The campaign has spent $55,000 to $60,000 on newspapers ads, billboards and other means of alerting potential residents of Shelbyville's proximity as a bedroom community.

Eventually, Shelbyville boosters hope, suppliers will locate in the city, too.

Honda spokesman Andrew Stoner said that while he didn't know exact locations of workers hired to staff the plant, anecdotal evidence suggests they're buying houses in Shelbyville, as well as in the Greensburg area. Other hot spots appear to be Bartholomew County, where Columbus is the county seat, and Batesville, which is between Greensburg and Cincinnati.

Most people moving in have been engineers and others who have been installing equipment and otherwise preparing the plant to open this fall. Many will be in the region for two to three years to help launch the plant, then will leave again.

However, some of the workers moving into Shelbyville and other places near the plant are likely production workers who will stay after the start-up team leaves, Stoner said.

About 500 production workers have been hired, and another 1,500 will added into early next year, Stoner said.

The $550 million plant is expected to open in October or November. It will begin by assembling the Civic compact car.

The Japanese automaker stirred controversy last fall when it announced it would only hire workers from 20 Indiana counties within about an hour's drive of the plant.

Honda said it wanted to ensure the employees could arrive to work on time, but United Auto Workers officials complained that the footprint conveniently eliminated such union hotbeds as Anderson and Muncie.

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