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VP 100: Brevini Wind Factory Helps Rust Belt Town’s Economy

October 5, 2010 - 10:00am

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Brevini Wind is building a 127,000-square foot state-of-the-art factory in Muncie, Ind.| Photo courtesy of Brevini Wind

Brevini Wind is building a 127,000-square foot state-of-the-art factory in Muncie, Ind.| Photo courtesy of Brevini Wind

Faced with a recession and an auto industry that ran out gas, many manufacturing towns in the Rust Belt have reinvented themselves. Some found success in healthcare, others in service industries.

But Muncie, Ind., whose economic backbone has also changed in the last 10 years, is going back to its roots -- and jumping ahead.

America’s “Middletown” is the new home for a Brevini Wind manufacturing plant.  The facility will produce wind gear boxes for turbine systems and is expected to hire 450 people by 2012. 

“This is a whole new field that we haven’t had represented in our town before,” says Terry Murphy, vice president of the Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance. “But we already have the skilled workforce…and that’s one of things that attracted Brevini.”

The local, state and federal incentives -- Brevini received a $12.8 million in Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to build the plant -- were also helpful.

New construction is nearly complete on a 127,000-square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing building for Brevini Wind, which will make about 1,000 gear boxes a year, ranging in size from 1.5 MW to 3.65 MW. The plant is expected to open later this year.

Not rusting away

These units are one of the most important, complex and expensive parts of the system -- and have mostly been made outside the United States.

In the last 12 years, Muncie has lost over 6,000 jobs. More recently, manufacturing giant Borg Warner shut down, and 800 people lost their jobs.  At one time, that company employed over 3,000 people. 

New Venture Gear, a joint venture of Chrysler and GM, manufactured manual transmissions and transfer casings at a Muncie plant, but moved, displacing over 1,200 people. And when Delphi, an automotive parts company, and ABB (power transformers) left town, another 1,200 people became unemployed. 

For a town of 68,000, that’s a good chunk of jobs.

But despite the exodus, there is still a strong manufacturing workforce in Muncie -- something Brevini hopes to tap into.

They plan to hire 450 people over the next two years, 69 of which have already been brought on, Murphy says.

“This was huge for the community,” Murphy says. “The company will employ people with good wages between $45,000 and $48,000. There is going to be some economic impacts. The payroll itself will be $22 million a year.”
 
Green bait

The skilled workforce was attractive to Brevini, and the incentives were also good.

In addition to the Recovery Act tax credit, the project received $60 million in private capital, $3.9 million in performance-based tax credits and $300,000 in training grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. 

The Economic Development Alliance also provided the 20-acre site for the new facility and extended rail service to the Brevini site, which is technically located in Yorktown, Ind.

“The company has a lot of growth potential, and it has given Muncie a lot of recognition,” Murphy says.

Muncie used to be known as a car town, much like Detroit. But maybe the winds are shifting.

“Wind energy companies a lot of times like to cluster,” Murphy says, “so there may interest from other companies.”

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