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600 will lose jobs when Tower plant closes

Tower Automotive announced Friday that it will close three plants, including the Corydon facility, with a complete shutdown no later than June 30. Approximately 600 employees at the Corydon plant will lose their jobs; half of them live in Harrison County.
Tower filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early February. The plant closure was part of the restructuring process, said Bill Pumphrey, Tower’s president of North American operations.
The closing was forecast long before bankruptcy was declared.
The Corydon plant withdrew from bidding on the next generation Ford Explorer frame in December 2002.
‘The future status of that facility has not yet been determined,’ Tower said then in a written announcement. The company bid on other projects but did not secure any new contracts.
Following layoffs of salaried employees in April 2003, a source in Tower’s administration said a lack of work beyond 2006 ‘added credence’ to rumors about the plant’s closure, but, the source said, the company was still in a favorable position to pursue new contracts.
In October 2003, the corporation announced it would likely record $125 million in write-downs on funds used to downsize or eliminate plants supporting the Ford Explorer program. A spokesman said production would continue at the Corydon facility until sometime in mid-2005.
At the time bankruptcy was filed, internal projections were that all lines would cease operations in August 2005.
Another indication that the Corydon plant did not fit into the corporation’s long-range plan was its investment practices.
Addressing criticism of tax abatement awarded to Tower, Darrell Voelker, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, said Tower invested more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the Corydon plant.
Previously, ‘the Tower property generated about $1,100 dollars in annual property taxes. It generated millions in the years they were paying property taxes. And if they weren’t awarded tax abatement, they wouldn’t have been here,’ Voelker said.
The company chose to focus on projects in Chicago, Mississippi and Tennesse, making huge investments in those areas, leading Voelker to speculate that Tower was poising itself to serve assembly plants in those regions.
‘They spent a lot of their corporate resources on those projects because they were in a position where they could be more successful. It’s not the empoyees’ fault or Corydon’s fault, but it’s just the way business works.
‘They were in a position where they could make more money,’ he said.
The Friday notice means work will continue at Tower for at least 60 days in order to comply with the WARN Act, which requires employees and the U.A.W. to recieve written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff at least 60 days in advance.
‘Closing facilities and reducing headcount are always very difficult decisions to make. However, as we go through our restructuring process, we must take all necessary actions to make Tower the most efficient and competitive company possible,’ Pumphrey said.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is looking for corporations that could take root in the Tower plant, though finding one that would hire a work force as large and invest as much capital as Tower did is unlikely.
‘Believe it or not, there is a huge market for large buildings like that. There are people looking for 350,000-square-foot buildings, and that’s encouraging,’ Voelker said.