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City consultant still dogging Navistar

Daniel White | Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Hera
Navistar International Corp. CEO Daniel Ustian announces plans to consolidate operations in Lisle, Ill.

– If Mark Williams has solid reasons to believe Navistar officials could end up keeping some operations in Fort Wayne, he’s keeping them to himself.

Williams met with Navistar International Corp. officials in Chicago two weeks ago and expects to meet with them again. But he won’t say when.

The president of Strategic Development Group is working on “a number of initiatives” with the company. But he won’t say what.

“I agreed to keep this in confidence with them,” he said Wednesday afternoon from Columbia, S.C., where he is based. “We just can’t play this whole thing out in the public. We’ll lose all credibility.”

Williams was hired by the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance in June to help woo Navistar, which had said it wanted to consolidate operations and was considering Lisle, Ill., a Chicago suburb, as the future location.

Alliance President Andi Udris said a portion of the contract, worth up to $95,000, is contingent on Williams’ successfully persuading Navistar to retain some operations and jobs here.

“We’re not even near halfway” to the dollar limit, Udris said. He declined to specify an exact amount.

Williams has communicated frequently with the company in recent days, by phone and by e-mail, he said.

But as Navistar pursues its strategic game plan, which includes moving operations from Fort Wayne, the opportunities appear to be slimmer by the day.

Williams remains undaunted.

“Just because of the announcement (Wednesday) doesn’t mean we’re going to fold up our tent,” he said.

“We’ve got to figure out how to make lemonade out of this,” he said. “We can’t just focus on the lemons.”

Williams’ goal is to keep Navistar’s employees working in Fort Wayne – either for Navistar or another employer.

Those highly trained workers, he said, “will be highly coveted by other companies.”