Following an exchange of letters, Fiat SpA officials have invited Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight to Italy.

Goodnight invited Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to visit Kokomo, and the invitation was returned by company officials.

“I found that encouraging,” Goodnight said. “The fact that I got a letter back within two weeks, I took as a good sign.”

The Obama administration gave Chrysler LLC until Thursday to reach an agreement with Fiat and other stakeholders to obtain additional loans from the federal government.

Marchionne has returned to the U.S. this week to resume talks with Chrysler officials about forming a partnership.

“I don’t think anyone is throwing in the towel,” Goodnight said of efforts to keep the company solvent. “They are trying to reach an agreement. Everyone is still at the table.”

Goodnight said he believes what is preventing a deal are the banks and hedge funds that hold much of Chrysler’s debt.

“The question is how much the banks will trade in debt for equity in Chrysler,” he said.

Goodnight and his economic development team hosted a conference call Friday with a representative for Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd District; Maurice Davison, Region 3 director for the United Auto Workers; and Edward Montgomery, President Barack Obama’s recovery director of Auto Industry Communities and Workers.

The conference call was to provide an opportunity for local officials to talk about Chrysler’s current fiscal state and the potential economic impact on Kokomo and the surrounding area.

Goodnight said Montgomery is working on helping communities and not getting involved in the restructuring of Chrysler.

“They are aware of what is going on,” he said. “He is well aware of Kokomo and some of the numbers.”

Goodnight said he invited Montgomery to visit Kokomo, meet with small business owners and attend a regional work force meeting.

“Mr. Montgomery let us know that nothing, regarding a Chrysler-Fiat merger or the actual outcome of Chrysler’s restructuring, is set in stone,” said Debbie Cook, director of Kokomo Economic Development. “We do know that we have a direct line to the government agencies we’ll need if we are facing job losses. It is good to know that they are interested in helping us — we have a lifeline.”

Donnelly said he was pleased Kokomo has established a line of communication with the Obama administration.

“I’ll continue to work with both the city and the administration to address these challenges, as well as discuss plans to strengthen the local economy moving forward,” Donnelly said after the conference call.

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