By Brett Wallace, Chronicle-Tribune

bwallace@chronicle-tribune.com

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs has approved Grant County to receive a $1 million grant which will be given to three area businesses to spur job growth.

Those three companies - Atlas Foundry, General Cable and Wiley Metal - have pledged to create 50 jobs locally as a result of the grant.

The funds were made available through OCRA as part of the federal Community Development Block Grant and were specifically rewarded to Grant County and other parts of Indiana as part of the recovery effort from natural disasters incurred in 2008.

"It allows (the businesses) to do things they would not normally have done," said Tim Eckerle, executive director of the Grant County Economic Growth Council. "It improves the margin of error. Business decisions are difficult right now."

Atlas Foundry President Jim Gartland said the foundry will use its portion of the grant for equipment upgrades.

"We're going to put an automatic grinder in," he said.

He said the foundry has an agreement with one of its customers to bring work back to Marion from China with the addition of this equipment.

"It will provide additional sales and will make our finishing room a lot more efficient, which will allow us to work the other side of the foundry harder," Gartland said.

This will create 15 new jobs at the foundry, he said. Some workers have already been hired, and he expects the rest of the positions to materialize in 2010.

"This is a very big positive for Atlas," he said. "It allows us to do the project. What little capital we have can be put toward other projects."

Ed Wiley, president of Wiley Metal, said that company is buying a bankrupt California company called Avionic Structures and bringing its business - making steel bumpers for fire trucks - to its Marion facilities.

This will create 15 new jobs in Marion, he said.

"We're buying the equipment this company has," Wiley said. "We're looking to try to pick up the customers these guys had."

The deal is supposed to finalize this week, at which time the equipment will ship to Indiana.

"That should allow us to pick up additional work for Wiley Metal as well," he said. "It should be good for both (businesses)."

Calls to local officials at General Cable this week were not returned.

Plant controller Rex Anderson told the Grant County Commissioners in August that General Cable would use its share of the grant money for its first major upgrade to the facility in 10 years.

He said the company would create 20 jobs locally and bring in a new line of business, though he would not elaborate.

Eckerle said all three of these companies are now in growth mode, but that other parts of Indiana aren't as fortunate.

"This is a very aggressive program by the state," Eckerle said. "But there are communities where they can't find anybody (eligible for the money).

"It's a wonderful tool and I applaud the state's Office of Community and Rural Affairs for coming up with it," he said.

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