Keihin North American, which manufactures auto engine management and climate control systems, announced last week that it would bring 130-175 jobs to Anderson this spring when it consolidates its corporate headquarters at Anderson’s Flagship Enterprise Center.
But the news was tempered by the reality that there will be few — if any — new jobs for local residents to pursue. The jobs will be filled by people who’d been working at KNA sites in Fishers and Greenfield.
Not so great.
Keihin’s move to Anderson certainly helps build the momentum established by other economic development news over the past several months, most notably the building of a Greenville Technology Inc. auto-parts manufacturing plant at the Flagship Enterprise park. The grand opening was Friday for the $21.4 million facility where 325 will be employed.
While the coming of GTI is arguably the community’s most important jobs gain since Nestlé in 2007, the Keihin deal is less significant. It’s a smaller operation that doesn’t include local manufacturing.
And you have to wonder whether there might be some negative feelings in Fishers and Greenfield, the two nearby communities that will be losing the jobs. Greenfield will retain Keihin manufacturing operations, mitigating the impact there. While local economic development officials must be aggressive in recruiting businesses to locate in Madison County, they also must work together with colleagues in surrounding counties to pool resources and take a regional approach. In the long run, it doesn’t do any of the regional communities good to have companies hopping from one to another every half dozen years to leverage the best deal.
Also of concern is the use of the Flagship Enterprise Center, a joint venture of the city and Anderson University. Its primary purpose is to foster entrepreneurial efforts and help new businesses get off to a good start. It’s unclear how well Keihin, a well-established company, fits into the Flagship’s mission.
All things considered, the coming of Keihin to Anderson is clearly a positive for our community. The $1.3 million in tax-increment financing funds to be used for improvements and abatements for Keihin, which signed a six-year lease, seems a fair price to pay when you consider the expansion of the tax base. Greg Winkler, head of city economic development, estimates tax coffers will come out $700,000 ahead by the end of the six-year deal.
Everyone, of course, would feel even better about Keihin if the company were looking to hire hundreds of Madison County residents. We need jobs more than anything else in Madison County, and officials mustn’t lose sight of that top imperative. Unemployment in the county hovered at 10.2 percent in December. That’s unacceptable.
Here’s hoping that Keihin will eventually offer such jobs and that the presence of the company in Anderson will help attract new businesses that will hire yet more local people.