Regional growth

Greensburg’s Honda plant expected
to change economic landscape

Impact of growth being felt
in neighboring communities, officials say

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(January 2008) – Greensburg, Ind., a small city in the southeastern part of the state, has always been just like its neighbors. Easily accessible from I-74 and I-65, the city, part of Decatur County, Ind., is situated a mere 47 miles from Indianapolis. With its population just more than 10,000, the city has thrived on its friendly, small town atmosphere. Most people seem know each other, and community events draw large crowds of locals for support.
About the only thing that sets Greensburg apart from its neighbors appeared to be the famous tree growing out of the roof of the courthouse tower. But then in June 2006, Honda Corp. announced it would build a $550 million production plant on 1,700 acres in Greensburg. When completed by fall 2008, the plant will employee 2,000 workers.
Honda’s announcement has dramatically changed economic development in Greensburg. It has also affected many of the small cities and towns that neighbor Greensburg.
Melanie Maxwell, tourism director for Greensburg-Decatur County, said interest in the town has “exploded.” Before the Honda announcement, she said the town’s website drew about 3,000 views a month. Now more than 15,000 hits are recorded on the website a month.
“Along with this wonderful announcement has come some unique growing pains for our community,” she said. “But we are excited about this tremendous economic opportunity for our community.”
Already, changes can be seen around the town. Although the Honda plant will not be operational until fall 2008, there is an influx of construction companies in the town. Highway 421, a major travel route running through the city, is being widened to include four lanes and a turning lane.
Several new restaurants have opened, including a Starbucks and a Buffalo Wings and Rings. Hampton Inn & Suites is building a new hotel, and several retail companies have looked for land in the town.
Greensburg developer Bob Rynard owns the Holiday Inn Express and the town’s movie theater. “We have seen a tremendous growth in attendance at our hotel since the announcement was made,” he said. “We believe we will see an increase over the long-term for the movie theater.”
Rynard owns 34 acres of land situated directly across the road from where the Honda plant will be located. Before the announcement, the property housed a nine-hole golf course. Now Rynard is negotiating with several “big box” or large retailers. “We are talking with Kroger Co., Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kohl’s Department Store,” he said. “Prior to Honda’s plans to build here, the only big box retailer we had was Wal-Mart.”
He said there has been a growth in housing construction as well, including the approval for 300 new housing lots. “Many of the employees coming to the plant will need housing; this certainly will generate new rooftops.”
He believes the entire region will eventually benefit economically because of the ancillary support the plant will need.
Jean Johannigman owns Jean and Co Decorating in downtown Greensburg. While she has seen no direct benefit yet from the Honda plant’s decision to locate in her town, she believes it should generate more business for everyone.
Johannigman is a member of the Downtown Greensburg Development Corp. The group is working to attract business to the downtown area of the city by developing second stories of the buildings or adding high speed connectivity to attract more professionals. “The real benefit will be what we make it,” she said. “We have many quality of life issues to certainly consider.”
“We certainly believe the new Honda plant in our community is a positive step for us,” said incoming Greensburg Mayor Gary
Herbert, who will take office in January. “While the effects are hard to determine at this point in time, all businesses in the area will be indirectly affected.”
He believed the entire region will benefit from the jobs brought into the area and the money that will be kept in it. “Other towns nearby have opportunities to be suppliers and put more money into their economies, as well,” he said.
At this point, the city has spent $56 million on infrastructure upgrades to water and sewer systems. Herbert said railroad crossing are going to have to be upgraded because trains are coming back through the town, and there is the possibility a new fire station may need to be added to the southern part of the city.
“We have had to work hard to keep everything on schedule,” he said. “We have more work to be done, but we are ecstatic to have the Honda plant in our community.”

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