The city of Fort Wayne, Ind., apparently locked in a competition with Springfield, Ohio, over which city will be allowed to keep its International Harvester Co. truck assembly plant, yesterday presented the company with a $19.5 million package to buy portions of the facility and lease them back to the debt-ridden company.
City officials also said they were trying to get Indiana officials to provide an additional $10 million to help Fort Wayne sweeten the pot.
Springfield officials have been attempting for several weeks to put the finishing touches on a plan to buy the Harvester factory there for $30 million and lease it back to the company.
Harvester said two weeks ago that as part of a cost-cutting overhaul of the company's operations, it would close one of its three North American truck plants -- those at Fort Wayne or Springfield or a small facility in Chatham, Ontario. Most observers expect the Canadian plant to remain open so IH can maintain its position in the Canadian truck market.
Harvester officials said earlier this week that they would decide which plant to close within the next two to four weeks.
"I don't think that anybody at any time seriously thinks that they would close the Canadian plant," said Karl Bandemer, Fort Wayne's director of economic development. "So I guess it comes down to Springfield versus Fort Wayne."
Earlier this year, when Harvester indicated that it would keep both U.S. plants open but asked for economic help from officials in both cities, Fort Wayne proposed a $9.5 million package that involved the purchase of Harvester's parts distribution center there with money guaranteed by the state and city.
That proposal was included in the plan presented to Harvester yesterday. Under the new plan, the city would use $6.5 million borrowed against community-development block-grant funds to purchase IH's truck and axle plant in Fort Wayne and lease it back to the company.
In addition, city and county officials would purchase for $3.5 million a vacant Harvester facility in Fort Wayne and lease it back to the company. The vacant plant, which formerly produced IH Scout utility vehicles, would be needed by the company if it concentrated truck manufacturing in Fort Wayne, according to Bandemer.
Bandemer said the city also hopes to hear shortly whether the state will put up $10 million to buy machinery and equipment in Harvester's main Fort Wayne truck plant, though not the plant itself. Bandemer said the equipment has more salvage value than the plant, which was built in 1928.