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New life for Wabash plant

Trailer-maker buys N. Manchester site, to hire 85 by 2013

A manufacturer of utility trailers will open a production plant in North Manchester that will employ 85 by 2013, Gov. Mitch Daniels and the company, Novae Corp., announced Wednesday.

Markle-based Novae is spending $3.4 million to buy and remodel an 88,000-square-foot plant at 11870 N. Wabash County Road 650 E. Novae is acquiring the plant from Dexter Axle Co., which announced in December 2008 that it was closing the facility.

Privately held Novae employs more than 150 people making trailers, lawn and garden equipment, tool storage systems and agricultural and industrial equipment at plants in Markle and Columbia City.

“In an industry that has been especially hard-hit by national and global economic conditions, Novae has found a way to grow and create new opportunities for Hoosiers,” Daniels said in a statement.

Novae chose the North Manchester plant over competing sites in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. said in a statement.

The economic development corporation offered Novae up to $570,000 in tax credits to open the North Manchester plant. Wabash County and North Manchester also offered tax breaks, but officials with those entities couldn’t be reached late Wednesday afternoon for comment.

The economic development corporation doesn’t release wage information if companies receiving tax breaks don’t want it to. And Mike Bermes, Novae’s president and chief business development officer, couldn’t be reached Wednesday with questions about the pay range at the North Manchester plant.

Workers there will make enclosed cargo trailers.

The plant had been owned by Elkhart-based Dexter, a subsidiary of the British conglomerate Tompkins PLC. In December 2008, the axle-maker announced it was adding 114 workers to its plant in Albion and closing its plant in North Manchester, which employed 164.

Wednesday’s announcement is good news for Wabash County, which had an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent in January, the most recent month for which statistics are available. That rate is up from 11.3 percent in December but down from 12.7 percent in January 2009.

Indiana’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment for January was 10.6 percent. The U.S. rate also was 10.6 percent.