Navistar Announces "Phase Down" of Fort Wayne Operations

By Megan Trent

August 17, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2010 at 3:30 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Over the next two to three years, Navistar officials will phase down the Fort Wayne operations. Mayor Tom Henry broke the news at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, and Indiana's NewsCenter was there live bringing you all the latest details.

The call from Navistar officials wasn't much of a surprise. City officials had been hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst when it came to the possibility of losing 1,100 well paying Navistar jobs.

And now in 24 to 36 months at least most of those jobs will be gone.
Mayor Henry said, "They did not get specific with what that meant. Jobs, timing, all of that. They just said 24 to 36 months."

Tim Haffner works as corporate council for the city of Fort Wayne. He said, "The mayor has assembled an aggressive group of organizations including the economic development alliance, the regional partnership workforce development. Our job is to evaluate what this impact might be and try to hang onto as many jobs as we can. And to the extent possible, try to re-deploy those key employees into areas that might help them remain in the community."

At Tuesday announcement, the Mayor said he'll fight to keep Navistar's test track here in Fort Wayne. "Our test track and the affiliated organization around the test track did have some possibilities, and they were willing to talk to us about that in the future."

"As we know, other locations don't have test tracks. The test track in integral to their business," said Haffner. "It would be the mayor's objective to evaluate the extent to which that track could be used or redeveloped into something that could be an asset valuable throughout the state."

Henry said, "The consultant that we've hired, Mark Williams, has been invited to Chicago to sit down with the President of Navistar and meet with them to discuss options and opportunities for Fort Wayne."

"Mark is an expert at site relocation and our hope would be that he could work with the company to try to determine what assets could stay here and candidly what assets might be enhanced, and so we are optimistic about that meeting," said Haffner.

If there is a silver lining... perhaps it's that Navistar isn't closing up shop in Fort Wayne tomorrow. "Obviously that makes us very optimistic that there is some potential for some additional opportunities for the city of Fort Wayne as it relates to Navistar," said Henry.

Haffner said, "We think it's in their interest and the city's interest to try to work together to develop a strategy for both retaining whatever jobs make sense here and candidly for expanding the city's commitment to it's engineering center. So, we're hopeful for that."

"We've long believed that Navistar is a good employer. We've been hosting Navistar and it's employees and this company for a number of decades. We want that relationship to continue far into the future," the Mayor said.

The mayor also said he will be holding another press conference at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. "We're talking about a couple of different opportunities for Navistar and it's employees. We're working on them now with our economic development partners. We'll have some more information tomorrow."

But for many Navistar employees, today's announcement confirmed what they had suspected for some time now. Only time will tell if city officials are successful in retaining any of those positions... but time is no longer something there is much of.

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