The jobs announcement in Elwood last week is good news for Madison County. Warner Bodies — which makes truck bodies — will relocate its manufacturing facility to Elwood from Noblesville, which means a $3 million investment and 150 new jobs.
It goes without saying that Elwood officials were giddy when they made the announcement. “This is a big deal,” said Mayor Ron Arnold. Warner Bodies President Rick Manasek was complimentary about his new host. “We like the town environment here,” he said, calling Elwood “one of Indiana’s best-kept secrets.”
It’s Elwood biggest economic development deal since 1987, when Elsa came in.
The new manufacturer will occupy the old Plastech factory, which will need some work, but Manasek said his operation will be up and running a year from now. Plastech went bankrupt in 2008 and suffered a fire last year that damaged the roof. Manasek said the current Warner Bodies plant and equipment are dated, and the new facility will allow the company a competitive edge.
This shows that northern Madison County is also a viable location for manufacturers. Most of the economic development news in recent years has come along Interstate 69, to which Pendleton and now Anderson have been staking claims via annexation. As important as the interstate corridor is, the whole county should be pitched as a prime industrial location. Elwood is about 12 miles from I-69, due east on Indiana 28. Plus, Indiana 37, where Warner Bodies will be located, is a direct route to I-69 where the two merge on the north end of the Indianapolis metro area. Elwood, small and seemingly isolated, is served by a great highway system. Also near Elwood is the new wind farm.
Manasek said he liked the skilled, ready-to-work labor force available in Elwood from the John H. Hinds Career Center. It would be nice to keep those students in Madison County instead of sending them elsewhere for jobs.
Elwood, like most small towns, has struggled in recent years, watching populations decline and property values go down. But those things can be turned around given time and job creators believing in communities, as Manasek does.
Madison County still needs jobs more than anything else. Warner Bodies’ announcement is a good shot in the arm for county workers.