Chrysler eyeing C. Ind. site for 850-worker plant

Chrysler considering unused factory in central Indiana for possible 850-worker plant

Associated Press

TIPTON, Ind. (AP) -- The Chrysler Group confirmed Monday it may expand its vast north central Indiana operations with a factory south of Kokomo, which would create 850 new jobs.

The automaker said it was considering a $162 million investment in an empty Tipton County factory that it had previously invested in before its German partner pulled out of the project.

The Tipton County Board of Commissioners approved a 10-year tax abatement worth $2.5 million Monday for the project at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Indiana 28.

"There are several more steps that need to be completed before we can fully confirm our plans for Tipton," Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement. "We understand the enormous interest in a potential new project, but for confidentiality reasons, we can offer no further details at this time."

The site, about 35 miles north of Indianapolis, originally had been planned as a 1,400-worker factory that would make transmissions for Chrysler until German auto parts maker Getrag stopped construction in 2008.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported Chrysler plans to use the plant to make a new line of nine-speed transmissions and hopes to begin installing equipment in June. That would allow the company to begin turning out the transmissions by the end of 2014.

Chrysler had requested the tax abatement for $48.6 million worth of equipment that would be installed in the plant, said Linda Williamson, interim director of Tipton County Economic Development.

"We're thrilled to death with the opportunity for 850 folks to have new jobs in Tipton County," Williamson told The Indianapolis Star.

Chrysler has thousands of employees at four factories in nearby Kokomo and has asked officials in that city to approve tax abatement for a new expansion there.

Brian Harlow, the vice president of Chrysler's power train division, told the IBJ that booming demand coupled with the government's looming fuel-efficiency mandates have pushed the Kokomo factories toward capacity. He said the Kokomo expansion plans were linked to the Tipton County project, but he would not release further details.

This will be Tipton County's third attempt to fill the massive building. After Getrag abandoned plans for the plant, Colorado-based solar panel maker Abound Solar received a $400 million federal loan guarantee in 2010 to launch operations in the facility. But the company filed for bankruptcy liquidation earlier this year, scuttling the plan.

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