North central Indiana, particularly Howard, Miami and Tipton counties, had a pretty tough year in 2009.
Chrysler’s factory shutdowns, brought on by the automaker’s brief bankruptcy, pushed Howard County unemployment to 19.3 percent that May. Delphi cut salaried retirees’ health and life insurance benefits and later defaulted retiree pensions to the federal government. Many, if not most, area residents were working longer hours for less than what they made a year or two earlier.
Kokomo needed a party at the beginning of the Great Recession, and the Haynes Apperson Festival provided one.
And when members of the ’70s supergroup Boston played the band’s most popular songs here during the annual summer celebration four years ago, we were reminded that civic pride is “More Than a Feeling.”
Haynes Apperson has returned, and this community has much for which to be thankful.
Since last year’s festival, Chrysler Group announced plans for a $374 million expansion that will create more than 1,200 jobs in Kokomo and Tipton. More than $200 million in equipment will be invested in the Kokomo Transmission Plant and two other facilities for production of eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions. That part of the expansion will create up to 400 jobs.
More than $100 million will be spent on a nine-speed transmission production line in Tipton that will create 850 jobs.
Once all of those jobs are filled, Chrysler will have added 2,200 jobs in the Kokomo Metropolitan Area since 2009.
Stabilization of the area’s other largest employers – Delphi Electronics and Safety, General Motors Components Holdings and Haynes International – gradually has put more people to work. Unemployment now stands at 9.2 percent in Howard County.
Kokomo has quite a lot for which to be proud. The first American auto was made here. An early Indianapolis 500 race car was made here. The first carburetor was made here. The first pneumatic tire was made here.
Other than our automotive heritage, let’s remember to celebrate our people today. The economy has knocked many down, but they get back up. Families, friends and churches lift up those experiencing worry and heartache.
It’s what we do. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
It’s why we’re proud to call Howard County home.