Connersville considers future without Carbon Motors

The city of Connersville is vowing to explore new ways to create jobs, just one day after the federal government rejected a loan for Carbon Motors.

Connersville, Ind.

The city of Connersville is vowing to explore new ways to create jobs, just one day after the federal government rejected a loan for a police car manufacturer that promised to employ 1,500 people.

Carbon Motors generated excitement throughout the city and Fayette County in 2009, when it announced plans to build the next generation of police cars in Connersville. But production hinged on a $310 million Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan from the Department of Energy. Two and a half years later, the DOE announced that it had rejected that loan application.

"You think of the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows," said Pete Bell, Chairperson of Economic Development for Connersville/Fayette County.

Carbon Motors vows to fight on and to explore ‘financing alternatives,’ but Bell said city leaders have yet to hear how the company plans to move forward.

In the meantime, Bell said the city has been speaking to several businesses that are interested in moving into the old Visteon Plant, which Carbon Motors currently occupies. Bell said the police car manufacturer was never going to fill the entire space anyway, which is why the city is already courting additional business.

"Obviously, as a community we want to wish them success," Bell said. "But we also, as a community, have to look forward."

It appears Governor Daniels is also moving forward. During the announcement in 2009, Daniels told a raucous crowd, "I can't wait for the day that the Indiana State Police and local law enforcement all over Indiana are buying and using Carbon Motors' vehicles."

After learning that the DOE had rejected the loan, Daniels released a statement saying, “It would have been far better if the federal government had never gone into the banking business. Companies like Carbon that might have proceeded and succeeded with a conventional business plan were seduced into wasting irreplaceable years chasing federal subsidies that never happened."

"Another disappointment," said Sandra Cuppy, a Connersville resident who talked about the news with others at the local coffee shop Thursday.

"It was just kind of a shame that, you know, we've waited so long and people had been hoping for it and wanting to get jobs," said Kaylyn Mundt, who works at the coffee shop.

Bell said he shares the community’s frustration, but he saves his anger for the federal government. Bell said he’s not as upset about the loan rejection as he is about the timetable.

"They held this community hostage basically,” Bell said. “They held Carbon Motors hostage basically for two and a half years, and that angers me."

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