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State business expansions suggest recovery

City boat-maker may hire 200; Bluffton food plant adding 80

The recovery seems to be taking hold after all.

Indiana officials on Tuesday announced multiple economic development projects, representing millions in investments and thousands of new jobs.

Nine companies participated in the announcement, which included investments in Fort Wayne and Bluffton. The executives unveiled plans to create a combined 2,552 new jobs over the next few years.

Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered the good news … and hinted at more to come.

“We’ve added jobs at nearly twice the national average for the past three years, but we have seen a significant surge of new interest in the past several months,” he said in a written statement. “The best holiday gifts the state could receive are these jobs, but today’s bundle is not the last for this year. Stand by for more.”

Brunswick Leisure Boat Co., which makes Harris FloteBote and Cypress Cay pontoon boats, plans to expand operations by moving into a larger space in Fort Wayne in early 2014.

The move will create up to 200 new jobs by 2016, the state said.

Brunswick officials haven’t finalized project details, including the total amount of the investment or where the operation will move, spokeswoman Jane Schlegel said.

State officials were “probably a little bit premature” in including Brunswick in Tuesday’s festivities, she said. But the company is committed to staying in Fort Wayne and moving to a larger building, so Brunswick officials agreed to participate in the governor’s blockbuster announcement.

Schlegel said the company, which has experienced double-digit sales growth during the past two years, hopes to finalize a deal on a new location within the next six months. The local operation is part of Lake Forest, Ill.-based Brunswick Corp.

The plant at 2801 W. State Blvd. now employs 227.

“We’re butting up against each other in the plant,” she said. “We’ve got no room to move.”

The company is creating various types of jobs and has already begun hiring, she said.

Inventure Foods, which makes snack foods for various specialty brands, will invest $15 million to expand its Bluffton operation, adding up to 80 new jobs by 2015.

The expansion’s first phase includes $3 million in new equipment and adding 20 new jobs, said Tim Ehlerding, Wells County economic development director. Inventure now employs about 120, he said.

The manufacturer plans to invest in bagging machines and distribution systems. The company makes products including Boulder Canyon Natural Foods brand kettle chips and T.G.I. Friday’s brand potato skins and onion rings.

Phoenix-based Inventure was named to Forbes magazine’s 2012 “America’s Best Small Companies” list earlier this month. The annual list comprises 100 publicly traded companies with sales under $1 billion, ranked on return on equity, sales growth, stock performance and earnings growth over the past year and the past five years.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Brunswick up to $2.575 million in conditional tax credits and up to $50,000 in training grants.

The IEDC has offered Inventure up to $425,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $75,000 in training grants.

State incentives are contingent on employers executing their plans. Companies don’t receive the full amount of the tax credits or training grants if they don’t create as many jobs as promised.

Schlegel said state officials were able to compute Brunswick’s incentives because the offer is based on the number of jobs created, not the dollar amount invested.

Bluffton officials are scheduled to consider requests for property tax abatement. If Brunswick chooses a site within Allen County, the Alliance would likely present a similar request to local officials.

Nick Stickler, president of Brunswick Fort Wayne Operations, said the company has been making pontoon boats in northern Indiana for more than 50 years.

“When constraints forced us to look at relocating to a new facility,” he said in a written statement, “we knew that we wanted to remain in this region – close to our supplier base and, more importantly, to retain our talented workforce.”

At a glance

Nine Indiana employers announced economic development projects on Tuesday. They include:
Angie’s List – Investing $1 million and creating up to 850 jobs by 2017 in Indianapolis
Atwood Mobile Products – Investing $5.9 million and creating up to 132 jobs by 2015 in Elkhart County
BidPal Inc. – Investing $3.5 million and creating up to 172 jobs by 2017 in Indianapolis
Café Valley Inc. – Creating up to 400 jobs by the end of 2018 in Marion, including 100 jobs in 2014 (investment amount not released)
ExactTarget – Investing $55 million and creating up to 500 jobs by 2018 in Indianapolis
Mitsubishi Engine North America – Investing $10.8 million and creating up to 73 jobs by 2016 in Franklin
Moorehead Communications Inc. – Doing business as TCC, a Verizon Wireless retailer, creating up to 145 jobs by 2016 in various locations (investment amount not released)
Source: Indiana Economic Development Corp.

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