The Herald Bulletin

March 27, 2011

This year to be better than 2010 for local business

County courting big projects this year

By April Abernathy
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — So far this year, the county has witnessed a handful of businesses close their doors, shutter their windows and say goodbye to the community.

A change of pace may be just around the corner.

The economic recession that began in late 2007 continued throughout 2010 and has bled into 2011, casting its effect on area businesses that struggle to stay solvent during times when consumers are watching their own bottom lines closely.

Rob Sparks of the Corporation for Economic Development said that county officials aren’t typically notified when businesses close, but said 2010 was hardly a banner year for business development. “Our only successes were expansions of current businesses that are here.”

Expansions included the construction of the accelerator building at the Flagship Enterprise Center and projects at Red Gold, Prairie Farms, S&S Steel and Owens Brockway in Lapel.

The projects accounted for $31 million worth of expansion costs and supported 700 jobs.

They aren’t new jobs, he said, but they still help the county. “When you have a local business that expands, that means those jobs are being secured.”

The county did catch the eye of developing businesses in 2010, he said. “We took in just over 200 leads, resulted in 32 sites visits.”

In 2010, Northwind Electronics announced it would be locating to a former General Motors site.

Linda Dawson handles economic development for the city of Anderson and said the city does not keep running totals of which businesses open and which businesses close in a given year.

So far in 2011,  Old Navy retail store and Blockbuster video on Scatterfield Road have announced plans to close, while the downtown Dunkin Donuts shut down operation in February.

On March 9, Northstar Aerospace announced that it will shutter its Anderson plant and move operations to Chicago, costing the county another 48 jobs.

Even so, Anderson was ranked eighth in new plants and plant expansions for cities of its size by Conway Data Inc.’s New Plant Database.

The ranking was primarily motivated by expansions at Nestle, Red Gold, Prairie Farms and S&S Steel.

While 2010 saw few new businesses, 2011 could see a positive turn, Sparks said. “We see quite a bit of activity looking for sites. The projects that are out there are very high priced, very detailed.”

Sparks said the county is courting “hundreds of millions of dollars” in projects.

Sparks said the projects are “leads that are starting to land as this economy seems to be settling out slightly. It’s an infusion of new capital coming in.”

“2011’s going to be a pretty good year. That’s why you saw the expansion of local businesses in 2010,” he added optimistically.

Contact Brandi Watters 640-4847,