Connersville Lands Carbon Motors

Company Promises Up To 1,550 Jobs In County With 16 Percent Unemployment

Amid enthusiastic cheers from a crowd of thousands, Carbon Motors announced Wednesday that it will manufacture a high-tech police car in economically-depressed Connersville.

City officials and the company, which promises up to 1,550 jobs in a county that has a 16 percent unemployment rate, all but confirmed the decision earlier this week, but enthusiasm was at a fever pitch during a rally at which the announcement was made.

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Atlanta-based Carbon Motors intends to manufacture the first purpose-built police car. Company officials had been deciding between Connersville and sites in South Carolina and Georgia for the plant.

Carbon has committed to investing $350 million to refurbish the 1.8 million-square-foot facility vacated by Visteon in 2007.

"We've got a long road ahead of us. There's going to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make this all happen," said Carbon Motors CEO William Santana Li.

Gov. Mitch Daniels was on hand for the announcement, and taped messages were played from Sens. Evan Bayh and Dick Lugar, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Pence.

Connersville mounted an exhaustive campaign to woo the automaker, which included a rally that 7,000 people attended in May. At least that many were thought to be on hand for Wednesday's announcement.

Residents are optimistic Carbon Motors could be the answer to the city's unemployment woes. Fayette County has the sixth-highest unemployment rate in the state at 15.9 percent and has been hit hard by the decline of the automotive industry.

Connersville, a community of about 15,000 residents, has lost an estimated 8,000 industrial jobs in recent years.

"I just lost my job of 18 years," said resident Kim Bowling. "There's no jobs anywhere around. We need it."

Carbon Motors officials said that the company already has 10,000 reservations for the high-tech police vehicle called the E7 Police Interceptor, which is slated to come with built-in lights, sirens, computers and chemical, biological and radiation sensors.

Workers at the plant will be paid approximately $18 an hour, officials said.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said there are some issues to be worked out before the full agreement with Carbon Motors can be finalized. Most of those involve securing control of the former Visteon site and addressing environmental issues.

Former Ford Motor Co. executives founded Carbon Motors in 2003.