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McClatchy-Tribune  08/21/2014 7:07 AM ET
Elwood welcomes manufacturing company Warner Bodies [The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind. :: ]

Aug. 21--ELWOOD, Ind. -- The relocation of a manufacturing plant to Madison County brings both revitalization and new jobs to the area.

More than 200 people turned out to celebrate the official opening of Warner Bodies on Wednesday. The company's arrival is the biggest economic development for the city since 1987.

Warner Bodies, a Noblesville-based company, relocated its headquarters and manufacturing facilities to the former Plastech Decorating Systems building located off Indiana 37.

"We are so happy to be in Indiana and even happier to be in Elwood, Indiana," said Rick Manasek, president of Warner Bodies.

Manasek said the opening of the company's new headquarters is a perfect example of how a private enterprise and the government can work together. He said Warner Bodies needed room to grow, space to optimize its production and a better environment for its employees.

The city needed to fill a burned-out and vacant factory building.

In 2008, Plastech filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors displacing its workers and a fire at the site had destroyed the building's roof requiring extensive repairs.

"Many in and around our city were already writing the eulogy for this once vibrant manufacturing community," said Mayor Ron Arnold. "More than 400 workers, 30 percent of Elwood's manufacturing and 10 percent of its total workforce lost their jobs that year in Elwood."

Craig Longstreth, executive vice president of Warner Bodies, said the company is looking forward to bringing jobs back to the area. More than 10 local jobs have already been added and the company kept almost 70 of its employees after the relocation.

Wages start around $10 an hour for entry-level employment and range between $13 and $18 an hour for welders and skilled positions, Longstreth said. On average the company maintains a 25 percent turnover rate for hourly workers.

Within five years, Warner Bodies plans to employ a workforce of 150.

Longstreth said the 260,000-square-foot building had to be gutted and after purchasing new equipment, more than $5 million was invested before the company opened at its new location.

"We were a growing company and needed to utilize a more streamline automotive type manufacturing process to make things more efficient," Longstreth said.

The company's former location was approximately 90,000 square feet.

Victor Smith, Indiana Secretary of Commerce, said the relocation of Warner Bodies to Elwood is a turnaround story that shows where the state is headed. He said that more than a decade ago, industries were leaving the state and now Indiana is leading the Midwest economy in the lowest unemployment rate.

"We've got to continually look at how we can continue to better the environment here in Indiana, that when people want to invest those dollars they choose here because this is where it is going to be the best return," he said.

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

Video A Tout video featuring a tour of Warner Bodies and more information about the company is available at www.heraldbulletin.com How to apply Applications for employment with Warner Bodies are being accepted by the city of Elwood. Special skill sets in demand for the new positions include welding, metal fabrication and automotive style painting. About Warner Bodies Founded in 1939, Warner Bodies builds custom utility bodies and trucks for a variety of purposes including fire and rescue, utility and service, haulers and brush vehicles. In 2010, the company was purchased by Manasek Acquisition Co., which owns Amerifab Inc., a fabricated structural metal company.

 

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