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Business prospects look bright for 2013

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GREENFIELD — Hancock County is poised for additional economic development growth in the New Year.

The past 12 months were busy for economic development officials, who said 2012 was a good rebounding year. Hancock County landed a major jobs announcement from auto-parts maker Tsuda, heard expansion plans from several existing business and received inquiries from many more, said Skip Kuker, director of the Hancock Economic Development Corporation.

“We seemingly do have some type of turnaround going on,” Kuker said.

“2013 looks like another bright year for economic development in Hancock County.”

Kuker, who joined the office in February, said the HEDC fielded 128 requests for information. He expects to see even more in 2013, he said.

Hancock County’s diverse workforce and proximity to major transportation routes makes it an attractive place to locate or relocate Kuker said – especially for call centers, food processing plants and manufacturing operations, industries which have been most frequently interested in the county.

Kuker said he continues in talks on two projects that are deep in the negotiating process and have the potential to bear fruit in the near future.

Not everything will be coming up roses, though – at least not at the beginning of the year. Officials agree that the good things Hancock County has going can easily be tempered by the business climate nationally.

County Commissioner Brad Armstrong said he expects to see a lot of hesitation in the first few months of the year as business owners wait to see what changes the Obama administration makes in its second term and assess the fallout from negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

“Everybody is being pretty guarded,” said Armstrong, a business owner himself. “It will take a couple of months for people to digest what’s going there and adjust.”

Starting next year, Hancock County will also see the continued build-out of several economic development commitments from the past year.

In 2012, tax abatements for expansion projects were approved for Elanco, Covance, Indiana Box and Indiana Automotive Fasteners from either the city or county.

Elanco has already begun construction on thee new buildings and will eventually employ 200 new workers.

Covance received approval in 2012 for a significant investment and expansion that promised as many as 465 new jobs.

Indiana Box planned to add as many as 30 employees, nearly doubling that company’s head count. And IAF planned to add 25 new jobs to its payroll.

In 2013, Tsuda Industries, a Japanese auto-parts maker, will begin work on its United States headquarters, which will be located near Mt. Comfort. The company announced its plans, which include hiring more than 100 workers, in October. Production is expected to begin in 2014.

Mayor Dick Pasco said 2013 is also rumored to be the year Kohl’s will finally begin construction on its much-anticipated Greenfield location that was approved in 2011. Kohl’s officials have yet to confirm a start date, though.

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