Kentucky, Tennessee said to be in running for motorcycle plant that could employ 1,000
By Ted Evanoff
Indiana is trying to edge out Kentucky and Tennessee and land a Harley-Davidson motorcycle assembly plant that could employ at least 1,000 workers.
Economic development leaders in Indiana have met with executives of the motorcycle company and touted the state's pro-business tax climate, a state official confirmed Wednesday.
Harley-Davidson, based in Milwaukee, has told Pennsylvania union officials that it has begun to study the future for its aged production complex at York, Pa.
The company, the nation's premier motorcycle maker, employs 2,800 in a complex about 200 miles west of Philadelphia that accounts for more than half of its motorcycle output.
Relocating part or all of the complex to Indiana could be the state's largest industrial windfall since Honda opened in October in Greensburg with 900 workers on its Civic assembly line.
Harley-Davidson officials appear to be interested in Indiana sites that include property in Shelby County northwest of Shelbyville along I-74, said an Indiana businessman familiar with the state's economic development activities.
In Shelby County, economic development official Dan Theobald said no company identified as Harley-Davidson is considering the area for a project.
It is not unusual for county leaders to work with anonymous prospects whose names are divulged only after they are certain the site is suitable for a plant.
In Pennsylvania, the York Daily Record reported Harley-Davidson officials confirmed sites in Shelbyville, Ky., and Murfreesboro, Tenn., and that two unidentified states are being considered.
The project appears almost certain to produce offers for heavy tax incentives from politicians eager to land the jobs. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has committed $15 million and promised more to secure jobs in York.
Incentives for large automotive plants have ranged from $168,600 per worker at Mercedes' Alabama plant to $55,000 at the Subaru plant that opened in 1989 in Lafayette. Incentives consist largely of training grants, tax breaks and, especially, government-funded road, water and rail upgrades. Incentives at Honda Greensburg totaled $70,750 per worker based on the addition of a second shift bringing employment to 2,050.
By that measure, a motorcycle plant with 1,000 workers could get incentives of about $70 million.
Harley-Davidson officials have put little emphasis on securing incentives from Pennsylvania but insist the York complex's future hinges on cutting production costs.
Earlier this year, the company disclosed a "two-path" study that will consider relocating work or revamping York. The study is under way. Much of the complex dates to a World War II bomb-making facility that is regarded as less efficient than modern industrial plants.
The company also has approached International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175, which represents most workers in the plant, about changing work rules and encouraging less absenteeism.
Local 175 won a 12 percent pay raise over three years after a two-week strike in 2007 that disrupted the company's other production operations at Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo.
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