Navistar's History In Fort Wayne

By Laura Donaldson

August 2, 2010 Updated Aug 4, 2010 at 11:11 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - In 1983 Navistar was called International Harvester, and employed more than 10,000 workers.

But during that year, Harvester closed most of their facility. All that remains now is this small plant on Meyer Road.

Former Fort Wayne Mayor Win Moses says the city put together a $30 million incentive package in an attempt to prevent international harvester from moving in the 80s. But the new incentive package and 60 years in the community wasn't enough to keep company officials around.

Moses says unemployment spiked and help hotlines were put into effect.

“We had a terrible time in Fort Wayne,” Moses said. “Our unemployment went to 14 percent. We had hotlines for domestic abuse and suicide and things like that. We set up food banks for people that were going to be without food and were going to lose their jobs and it was a very difficult year and a half or so.”

The city eventually used the incentive package to lure General Motors to the area and economic development bounced back.

In 1986, company officials changed the name to Navistar and transitioned from farm equipment to a large truck production.

Moses says the current uncertainly with Navistar mimics that of the 1980s.

“This is a replay of 1983 in many ways, in that we have an aging facility and they're trying to change that,” Moses said. It feels exactly the same. We have to work hard and have hope and be optimistic. But, it's going to be very difficult.”

Moses says the more than $90,000 current Mayor Tom Henry is spending on a consulting firm is a good idea. He says it will make it easier to speak with Navistar officials and even if the company leaves, he says the city will learn how to grow and retain other larger companies.

But does Moses believe Navistar will stay in Fort Wayne this time?

“Are they likely to stay in Fort Wayne on this bases of history and all, no probably not,” Moses said. “Are they sorry about it, are they worried about it? Yeah, they call and they try and they soften it as much as they can, and they've been polite. But they won't make a decision based on their history they'll base it on their future.”

Navistar has given no official response about leaving Fort Wayne.

Photographs Courtesy of: The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society

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