Great Dane is seeking to consolidate its nationwide fabrication operations into Vigo County, planning a $50 million investment in new equipment as well as improving its manufacturing facility at 4901 N. 13th St. in Terre Haute, adding 125 new jobs.

The company is seeking a 10-year real property tax abatement and 10-year personal property tax abatement from the Vigo County Council for the project, which will include $42.25 million in new equipment and $7.75 million in building improvements to its Vigo County facility.

Targeted completion date is Dec. 31, 2024.

The company would add 125 full-time jobs at a rate of $25 per hour, marking $6.5 million in new payroll. It would also retain 483 jobs at an average rate of $21.69 per hour, which represents more than $21.7 million in annual payroll.

"We are looking at consolidating nine plants (across the United States) with fabrication processes into one plant," said Matthew Johnson, plant manager of Great Dane's Vigo County facility.

Those nine plants would continue to assemble truck trailers, but the parts would be fabricated in one facility, Johnson said, using robotic welding and automation systems, such as painters. Those parts would then be shipped back to the assembly plants.

The Vigo County plant, which also assembles truck trailers, fabricates enough assembly parts for about 7,500 trailers per year, with Great Dane companywide producing parts for about 40,000 to 45,000 trailers per year.

The fabrication capacity would all be done in Vigo County under the proposed project.

"The trailer industry is booming," Johnson said, adding the Vigo County plant has a large vacant building that can be used for the automated machinery and the company would invest to improve buildings at its site.

"The buildings at this (Vigo County) campus are very old. It requires a lot of renovations both on the outside and inside, foundational work, walls, a lot of new lighting to make it a state-of-the-art facility and we also want it to be a showcase for customers," Johnson said.

If approved for tax abatements, the company would start renovation and equipment installation in January, with production beginning in May.

"Phase 1 is half the project, with half the investment and half the hiring. Then, in 2023, (we) go into another round of investment and hiring," Johnson said. An initial ramp up of production would take 9 to 12 months.

If approved, Great Dane is projecting to pay $793,092 in new property taxes over the 10-year abatement for its building improvements, but it would have $969,335 in taxes abated over the 10 years.

On its personal property, the company is projecting to pay $837,824 in new taxes over a 10-year abatement, with $1,775,572 in personal property taxes abated.

"We are still looking at locations, but we prefer Terre Haute," Johnson told the council. "From a Great Dane perspective, they prefer Terre Haute. The plant here is a top tier plant in the company and it is centrally located" for U.S. shipments, he said. The company also has a good relationship with Ivy Tech Community College, which helps train its workforce.

The council is slated to vote on a preliminary approval on the requested tax abatements at its Nov. 9 meeting.

A vote on final approval for the tax abatements would be made by the council at its Jan. 4 reorganizational meeting, as the council will not hold a sunshine or regular meeting in January.

Prior to the tax abatement discussion, Councilwoman Marie Theisz said she would like the council to adopt a tax abatement scoring system, similar to a system used by the Terre Haute City Council, which gives points for job creation and total project investment. Such a system could provide a score to determine if a tax abatement is warranted for a 10-year period or for fewer years.

"My goal is to bring something to the council by the January meeting," Theisz said.
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