Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Dick Moore are unlikely political bedfellows. But the two came together Thursday afternoon to help announce the expansion of Elkhart's KIK Custom Products, the former Accra Pac Group.
The city and the state offered the company a series of incentives, including a local tax abatement of about $1.6 million, $470,000 in state performance-based tax credits and up to $137,500 in state training grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
The combination of assistance might have saved the company, which employs 700 people in Elkhart, from moving elsewhere. The City With a Heart was in competition with Danville, Ill., for a $24 million expansion that will mean 190 new jobs paying a decent average wage of about $13.85 per hour. Company officials said $10 million will be spent immediately. The new jobs should be filled within two years, beginning this July.
Our gain is a loss for KIK's Rhode Island facility, however, which will be shutting down and displacing 400 employees. Most of those operations will move here. Nevertheless, the jobs are a gain for Elkhart's economy at a time when things on the manufacturing front aren't looking very strong -- especially in the RV market.
Give credit where credit is due. Moore said during this mayoral campaign that he didn't favor tax abatements. The KIK situation shows that he's willing to use the tool when necessary to keep business growing.
And Daniels and his IEDC stepped in to help as well, boosting the chances for the company to remain and grow here. The IEDC will monitor the company to make sure it meets hiring requirements imposed by the state's incentives.
Another encouraging sign from Thursday's announcement came from KIK president and CEO Jeff Nodland. He addressed safety concerns at the plant, which undoubtedly once again will trouble neighbors as they realize KIK is adding more aerosol lines to its 1.2 million-square-foot facility. As Accra Pac, the company was the site of deadly explosions in 1976 and 1997.
Nodland said the company has made a lot of progress on safety at the local plant, investing $4 million in detection equipment, ventilation, emergency shutdown and fire-suppression systems. KIK has obviously taken some positive steps to keep it from happening again.
The KIK expansion is a positive on several fronts -- it creates jobs in a city that recorded a 6.2 percent unemployment rate in April; it shows that the state is willing to use economic development money to help this area; and it proves that Democrats and Republicans can put their differences aside to help the community.