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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:26 PM   #1
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Anderson, Indiana...a once booming GM city

Anderson, Indiana (my hometown) used to be a booming GM city. In 1980, Anderson counted 72,000 people within its borders and another 100,000 in its metro population, which only included surrounding Madison County. Anderson used to have over 20 GM plants and now has ZERO. My grandparents and my dad have all retired from GM. Anderson was counted within the Indy metro area until the last census when the City asked to have its own designation. To give you an idea of where Anderson is, it is located along I-69 between Indianapolis (Fishers) and Muncie. The Anderson UA and the Muncie UA meet in the town of Daleville and the Anderson UA extends dwon to the Town of Fortville, which is now being touched by Indy's with Fishers and McCordsville near the Geist area. Below are some articles on what the City is doing to over-come the exodus of GM.

Anderson’s leaders are working to exorcise the ghosts of GM

By Anthony Schoettle
[email protected]

Four miles and decades of history separate the Anderson exits along Interstate 69 northeast of Indianapolis.

Empty General Motors Corp. plants—as much a thing of the past as single-class basketball—cast ominous shadows at Exit 26, once Anderson’s front door.

To the west, closer to Indianapolis, is Exit 22 and the trappings of the future: millions of dollars in new infrastructure, a new business park, and the state’s largest business incubator—tools Anderson officials think they need to turn this rust-belt poster child into a well-oiled economic machine.

“It’s high time we start looking at things differently,” said Mayor Kevin S. Smith, a longtime Anderson police detective who took office in January 2004. “The past is gone, and it’s not coming back. We need an economic development plan that reflects that.”

That’s a painful admission for a city that has depended on a single employer for as long as most of its residents can remember. It’s also a bold statement for a Republican mayor still trying to win voters’ confidence following four-term Democratic Mayor J. Mark Lawler.

Patrick Barkey, an economist and Ball State University professor, said Smith faces a tall task but is on the right track.

“The first thing elected leaders need to do is torpedo complacency,” said Barkey, a former resident of Flint, Mich., whose economy—like Anderson’s—thrived for decades on the oil that courses through the automotive industry.

“Local leaders have to prepare the city for growth, and to longtime residents, some of those initiatives will look very unusual,” Barkey said.

While planting seeds for a new economy is as alien to Anderson residents as recruiting a Toyota plant, Smith says he’s ready to do just that. He’s already knocked on Toyota’s door—and Honda’s, too.

Change agent

Smith hasn’t shied away from controversy.

While cutting the city budget $4 million since taking office, he’s added a position to market the city to outside companies. He’s allocated an additional $2 million for road, sidewalk and sewer improvements and beautification projects. The mayor said that type of investment will continue even without agreements from companies willing to locate in the areas being improved. The city, Smith said, needs a makeover if it’s going to lure outside investment.

It can no longer afford to wait for companies to come calling. In the last 20 years, Anderson’s population has plummeted from near 72,000 to less than 60,000. In the same time, the city has seen $10 billion in annual wages evaporate along with $156 million in annual tax revenue and $430 billion in annual industrial output.

GM’s work force has dwindled from 24,000 three decades ago to a single employee who watches over the Detroitbased automaker’s vacant lots and buildings.

“It’s been a slow, painful death in Anderson, and that can make the transition to a new economy more difficult,” Barkey said. “People want to hang onto something until it’s gone. Well, now it’s gone.”

Despite the decline of high-wage jobs, Anderson hasn’t completely collapsed. Service jobs have sprung up in the medical field and other sectors, keeping the city’s unemployment rate below 5.5 percent, a far cry from the 20-percent levels that plagued it in the early 1980s during the recession that marked the first big steps in GM’s pullout.

Those service jobs, though, don’t replace $26-an-hour GM union jobs.

Entry/Exit strategy

Symbolic of Anderson’s problems is its comprehensive development plan, which hadn’t seen significant change since 1962. Now, it’s being reworked and will address, among other things, the city’s I-69 access points.

Scatterfield Road leading from Exit 26 to the city’s center along the White River is littered with reminders of a time when GM employed half of all working Anderson adults. The road was once lined with GM plants and the businesses that served them.

Smith has initiated discussions with GM to take over the abandoned land and buildings. But the city isn’t eager to acquire those sites—even at no charge—until replacement businesses have committed to locate there.

Keeping the empty factories in GM’s possession keeps the property taxes rolling in, and gives the city time to make sure the automaker takes responsibility for cleaning up any environmental problems that remain.

Meanwhile, much of the city’s attention has turned to Exit 22, four miles west. The exit, which sat dormant for years, leads to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard—also known as Business State Road 9. Its lone business, a gas station, closed long ago and the street was mostly ignored throughout GM’s reign.

Now it’s touted as Anderson’s new front door, and the focal point of the city’s revival.

“Exit 22 is closer to Indianapolis and the fast-growing Hamilton County area, and we think we can feed off that,” Smith said.

Near the exit is the Flagship Enterprise Center, a business incubator that opened in May as part of the surrounding Flagship Enterprise Park, a 200-acre complex already home to a dozen stand-alone facilities that house firms in the transportation, engineering and medical fields.

Almost 20 startups have moved into the center, the state’s largest incubator in terms of square footage. Agreements with Anderson and Purdue universities are fueling expansion at the facility and optimism among local officials that it will become one of the Midwest’s premier incubators.

The Anderson University Falls School of Business and Purdue’s technologyrelated departments will offer degree programs at an adjoining facility to be built by summer 2007. The schools will make a variety of internships available at the incubator and school officials said faculty will work on research and development with companies there.

Pete Bitar, president of Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems, is among those who’ve moved their companies into the center.

“Anderson is a diamond in the rough,” Bitar said. “With its central location, proximity to Indianapolis, and access to a variety of technical expertise, Anderson is an ideal place for us to grow.”

GM’s glow

Though GM has had almost no presence in Anderson since the late 1990s, some of its positive influence remains.

The much-ballyhooed incubator was launched through a $3 million GM gift.

And Smith noted there’s another important GM byproduct remaining: many of the people the company nourished professionally.

“People will see we have a pool of labor that fits almost any need,” Smith said. “We have a lot of people in this area with engineering and technical backgrounds whose expertise is unparalleled.”

Smith said many former GM employees have taken buyout packages or retired, but have remained in the area as either entrepreneurs or consultants.

And Anderson has another economicdevelopment advantage. Because the city owns its own power and light facility, it was able to put in a fiber-optic network unmatched in the area, Smith said. The mayor finished what Lawler, his predecessor, started by installing enough fiber optics to serve all comers.

The city has also employed almost every kind of tax incentive there is to draw new business, including becoming one of the first Indiana communities to kill the inventory tax and launch a duty-free foreign trade zone. State and federal tax incentives are also in place to help fill the brick-andmortar behemoths GM left behind.

GM’s shadow

City leaders admit the vacant facilities, while offering hope for the city’s future, continue to be a painful reminder of Anderson’s past.

“No one for 20 years has thought we were going back to an automotive industry here. But there are a lot of reminders of that era,” said Mary Starkey, executive director of Madison County’s Corporation for Economic Development.

Among the reminders are the vestiges of GM-related businesses like spin-offs Delphi Automotive, Guide Corp. and Remy International. Collectively, Delphi, Guide and Remy still employ thousands, but jobs at some of those plants are far from secure.

Anderson City Councilor Joseph ******, who recently retired from Delphi after nearly 40 years, knows firsthand what the city has been through and what it faces. Delphi still employs almost 900 in Anderson, but declared bankruptcy in October, jeopardizing local jobs and another 5,500 in Kokomo.

“We have to forget about what’s falling apart, and move forward with building a new future,” ****** said. “But, believe me, I know, sometimes it’s difficult to watch these companies struggle. They represent the livelihood of a lot of people, and a lot of my friends.”

******’s district southwest of downtown—where his family has lived since 1918—is littered with dilapidated houses and vacant lots.

But ****** said the mayor and City Council have worked hard to rehab neighborhoods.

“We’ve seen more than a dozen homes rehabbed here and others are being rebuilt,” ****** said.

Run-down homes are just one housing problem Anderson faces. A lack of upscale homes could send executives of newly located companies to Hamilton and northern Marion counties for housing that suits their lifestyle.

Country Club Heights, surrounding the Anderson Country Club, offers high-end housing, as does a new waterfront development about two miles northeast of downtown. City officials think one or more upscale developments will crop up near the Exit 22 corridor once road improvements are complete.

Attracting business is job one, Smith said, but seeing that the people who run those businesses call the community home is a close second. Executive brainpower is something every successful community needs to spearhead civic projects and stock government boards, he said.

Image is everything

Anderson’s civic life used to revolve around a factory and a high school gymnasium, but no more.

No longer do city officials tout Anderson High School’s Wigwam—a cathedral to Hoosier Hysteria’s glory days—as a major attraction. Instead, they trumpet pacts with area colleges to bring in a steady stream of brainpower to fuel the economy, along with new, state-of-the-art school buildings and classroom facilities.

After spending the first two years of his administration preparing the infrastructure to attract businesses, those are the images Smith tries to sell.

He admits the city’s perception as a GM town has hampered statewide recruitment efforts, but he’s taking Anderson’s message to a bigger stage. The mayor hired economic development and marketing expert Greg Winkler last year, for $9,000 a month plus up to $3,000 a month in expenses, to sell Anderson not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally.

Winkler, 44, worked in the Church of God ministry before pursuing a master’s of planning from the College of Architecture at Ball State University. For 15 years, he worked in sales for engineering and facilities companies. Smith said Winkler’s private-sector contacts will be key in selling Anderson.

The duo traveled with Gov. Mitch Daniels and a cadre of state officials to Asia in July and they’re making a recruitment trip to Israel Nov. 6-12.

The mayor is working on three prospects drummed up on the Asian trip. If they pan out, more jobs will be added to the 400-plus gained since Smith took office.

Politics aside

Despite the valiant effort to remake Anderson, there’s a mountain of misperception to overcome and a daunting divide to bridge between the city and prospective companies.

A turnaround, said Flagship Enterprise Center CEO Charles Staley, will take a Herculean effort framed by cooperation.

“We simply don’t have time here for politics as usual,” said Staley, whose mother was secretary for the local branch of the United Auto Workers. “We need a unified front. That’s what our citizens expect, and I think that’s what both parties will deliver.”

The city seems to be pulling together in Smith’s first term, despite long odds. Republican Smith is married to a City Council where Democrats hold a 5-4 edge.

“Sure, there are differences, but I haven’t met a politician yet who’s against economic development, job creation and improving the way of life for residents,” Smith said. “These are fundamental issues which demand all of our attention.”

Councilor ******, a Democrat, gives the mayor and council members a “high B” for their cooperative effort thus far.

“We have some difficult issues in front of us,” ****** said. “But regardless of party, I think people realize economic development is a community project.”

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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:28 PM   #2
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Incentives abound to help backfill old GM sites

—Anthony Schoettle

Anderson officials are taking advantage of two incentive programs—one state and the other federal—to lure users to former General Motors Corp. factories.

A collection of vacant buildings and empty lots where more than 24,000 GM employees once worked was designated last December as a state Community Revitalization Enhancement District, or CReED.

Anderson is one of only seven Indiana cities to have a CReED, which offers tax advantages to private companies that locate in the district. The program is funded by the capture of incremental sales tax and state income tax from the district.

Anderson’s 510-acre CReED encompasses a large parcel bisected by Scatterfield Road that includes two former GM plants. It includes another parcel winding from 38th Street to almost 31st Street on the west side of Scatterfield Road, and a third parcel stretching from 29th to 23rd streets where another vacant GM plant sits.

The CReED includes vacant land and buildings that could be up and running with just a little work. Plant 18, the old Delco Remy headquarters, offers 117,000 square feet of office and lab space.

“We think this gives us a distinct advantage in economic development,” said Anderson Mayor Kevin S. Smith. “We have something to offer not many other communities have.”

Developments on the old GM sites not far from Exit 26 along Interstate 69 are also eligible for federal new market tax credits. The NMTC program was created to attract capital investment from financial institutions willing to make loans or capital investments in businesses in disadvantaged census tracts.

The state and federal tax incentives, along with adjacent rail access and proximity to I-69, should spur growth on the former GM sites, Smith said.

The two tax-incentive programs have already landed three hot business prospects, Smith said.

“We feel good about our GM exit strategy right now,” Smith said. “In the past, there was a piecemeal approach to this. We want to take an overall approach to deal with this that will be good for the city’s long-term future.”

Theater rehab project symbolic of city’s makeover

While Anderson officials have focused much energy on Interstate 69 access points and former General Motors Corp. sites and business parks outside the city’s center, they’ve also been carefully rebuilding downtown.

In 2002, Anderson Indiana Main Street was formed, and has become active in the last two years recruiting business there and hosting a number of festivals and other events.

In recent years, many of the streets have been repaved—some with brick pavers as part of a massive beautification project for the city’s downtown, which is nestled along White River. Building facades have been rehabbed and period lighting has been added.

A River District was set up to encourage development of restaurants and other entertainment venues.

The Paramount Theatre Centre & Ballroom at downtown’s Meridian and Main streets is perhaps most symbolic of attempts to remake Anderson.

During the recession of the 1980s when GM was pulling out, the theater—built in 1929—was a whisker away from condemnation. City officials were going to raze it for surface parking.

But a group of community leaders stepped in to rehab the building’s roof and later restored the interior to its previous glory, including terra cotta roof tiles, alabaster balconies and a ceiling that features a moving, morphing sky.

“This is just one of the unknown jewels of Anderson,” said Mary Starkey, executive director for Madison County’s Corporation for Economic Development. “It’s a draw all by itself.”

Here are a few of The Paramount’s unique features:

It is one of only 12 John Ebersondesigned atmospheric theaters remaining in the United States and Canada.

Its 1,458 seats are covered in winecolored velvet fabric.

Its 20-foot-by-40-foot movie screen is one of the largest in Indiana.

It has a recently constructed orchestra pit lift for 20 musicians.

At 6,000 square feet, the art-deco ballroom is the largest free-standing public room in Madison County, with seating for 400.

Forty-one paint colors and a fortune of gold leaf were used in the theater restoration.

The Grand Page Theatre Pipe Organ is one of only three such organs remaining in its original installation in the United States.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:29 PM   #3
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I am anxious to see what other midwest cities are doing to over-come the GM flight. I am sure that there are a number of "Andersons" through-out the region.
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Old November 7th, 2005, 08:02 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cwilson758
I am anxious to see what other midwest cities are doing to over-come the GM flight. I am sure that there are a number of "Andersons" through-out the region.
Flint, Michigan comes to mind
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Old November 8th, 2005, 04:01 PM   #5
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Doesnt Anderson have a discernible skyline?
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Old November 8th, 2005, 08:15 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by NaptownBoy
Doesnt Anderson have a discernible skyline?

Well, there are I think 3 buildings with at least 12 stories! The City is also situated on the banks of the White River, which is elevated from flood plain, so it makes it appear "taller" than it is. Here are a few shots:

Here is a link to a map of the City:

I will see if I can find any pics. From a certain angle, the "skyline" is actually quite deceiving
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Old November 8th, 2005, 08:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by cwilson758

Wow! That skyline is far better than what I ever excpected from Anderson. I need to make it over there before I leave by beloved Indiana forever in a few months.

Does anyone have any better pics of the skyline?
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Old November 9th, 2005, 02:42 AM   #8
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My question is more philosophic than anything. If Anderson is a town "built" by GM, then when GM leaves, shouldn't a town like Anderson disappear?

I'm not meaning to flame here, just being provocative!

I just want to know why any city that built itself up from the capitalist fortunes of a single employer or a single industry should have any need to exist after the said industry declines and disappears. After all, the US is littered with the remains of ghost towns from the Gold Rush and Iron Rush years. Why shouldn't these cities just give it up? Why else should they exist? Why not accept decline and eventually oblivion?

Just asking so we can discuss the implications!
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Old November 9th, 2005, 04:32 PM   #9
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well, unlike the ghost towns of the gold rush, there is actually infrastucture in place now. It doens't make sense to leave a city built for 100,000 people just abandon. Plus, in the case of Anderson, even though GM was the primary business, there are also other business in the Town. Anderson is also home to one of only 2 horse tracks in Indiana, Hoosier Park.
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