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Rushville Mayor Robert Bridges (center) discusses economic opportunities surrounding Honda with Greensburg Mayor Frank Manus and director of the Decatur County branch of the Economic Development Community Vicki Kellerman. Bridges was just one of the mayors who came to the Greensburg Country Club to hear Honda and Global Performance reps speak about the economic windfall that may blow through the region with the project.

On Wednesday, 11 mayors were asking not what they could do for Honda but what Honda could do for them.

Frank Manus hosted a Mayor’s Roundtable at the Greensburg Country Club to inform his surrounding neighbors on the benefits of Honda taking up residence in Decatur County.

“If I wasn’t the mayor of Greensburg, I’d like to know what Honda could do for my city,” he told a room filled with city leaders and representatives.

Manus hosted mayors from Batesville, Rushville, Shelbyville, Lawrenceburg, Aurora, North Vernon, Seymour, Connersville, Richmond and Madison—as well as the director of planning for the city of Franklin who came as that mayor’s representative.

“You know, to get 12 mayors in one room is amazing. I’ve been to a lot of these things and I’ve never seen that,” Manus said.

The prize that brought them to Greensburg was evident.

“You’ve never dangled jobs out in front of us. You dangle jobs, you’ll pack the room,” Madison Mayor Al Huntington joked.

Manus invited Shane McCoy, senior project manager for Honda, as well as Bill Bryant and Hugh Hagerman of Global Performance to inform the mayors on the economic prospects close on the horizon.

McCoy and Bryant each gave an overview of their roles in the project and how Honda is planning to proceed. The last piece of the presentation, before the speakers opened the floor for questions provided the driving force for each mayor’s attendance.

“We’re giving special consideration to two groups, local businesses and Indiana businesses. We also will offer preferential treatment to minority and women-owned business,” Bryant said. “We’ll encourage diversity in all tiers.”

One of the main concerns for Shelbyville Mayor Scott Ferguson was the factor of distance to Honda in regards to individual cities attracting suppliers.

“There is no requirement for suppliers on how close they are to Greensburg?” Ferguson asked.

McCoy affirmed there is no directive for suppliers or contractors to be within a certain radius to the future plant.

Huntington and a few other mayors offered questions requiring hiring and whether Honda was concerned on saturating the market to the point where it would drive labor costs up.

“There are existing Honda suppliers in this area. We look to hire 2,000 people, but we don’t want to steal people away from them,” McCoy noted.

Other mayors, such as Connersville Mayor Max Ellison, looked for advice on how to attract suppliers and others to his area who may want to move closer to Honda.

“We’ve already been contacted by a tier-one supplier” Ellison said. “The last thing we want is to be so aggressive, and the rest of the mayors know about this, that they shut down communication.”

McCoy offered his assistance as far as advice went on this matter.

“My common business sense tells me there is not going to be a lot of companies out there who are going to build large new facilities,” McCoy stated. “You don’t want to feel like you’re pestering them to death but you want to keep your name out there.”

Regardless of who would get the jobs, Manus advised the mayors to encourage education among their residents, especially if they are thinking of applying at Honda.

“I think it would be responsible to encourage your people who are not working or don’t like what they’re doing to get more education,” Manus said. “I think you’re going have to be a better-than-average person to work at Honda.”

The meeting also provided an opportunity for the surrounding mayors to have some face time with the major players in the project and open a dialogue with both Honda and Global for their cities.

The rail lines are projected to be a major part of the Honda distribution and they concern a few mayors who share the lines with Greensburg, particularly Shelbyville and Batesville.

“I have a rail line that divides my community. In fact, its going through my backyard,” Batesville Mayor Rick Fledderman said. “It would be nice to know the traffic so that the community can prepare accordingly.”

Neither McCoy nor reps from Global could confirm whether the rail traffic would increase, what times it may be running or which direction. Rather than speculate, McCoy offered to keep those lines of communication open so communities could be advised.

In all, many mayors felt the hour-and-a-half lunch was a worthwhile event.

“It was good hearing these things first hand. I already knew most of it, but I appreciated meeting the principle people involved,” Fledderman remarked.

For others, the meeting increased their enthusiasm about the project and its prospects.

“This project is the best project to come into Indiana in last 40 or 50 years and I’ve been Mayor for the last 15 years,” Mayor of North Vernon John Hall said. “It’s going to impact every community in a 50-mile radius, and I agree with Mayor Manus. I’ve been telling everyone to get back in school. We can keep the jobs in Indiana, but the people have to get the education.”

All in all, Manus felt the event was a hit. He noted, it was the least he could as a good neighbor.

“I just wanted to share this with my southern boys within a 60-mile radius of the opportunities in Decatur County. No one is more deserving than they are. All of them have problems with unemployment, and I’ll do anything to help,” Manus said. “It’s fine for people from Indianapolis and Cincinnati to come here and work, but I’d really like to help the people down here first.”

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