Hill-Rom expansion will add jobs here

Debbie Blank | The Herald-TribuneHill-Rom research & development executive director Phil Kuhn (left) discusses expansion plans while BEDC members, including J.D. Showalter (right) and Mayor Mike Bettice (background) listen.

"Hill-Rom is going to be doing an expansion in Batesville" to enhance its safe patient handling product portfolio, Batesville Economic Development Commission President Kevin McGuire announced at the Jan. 9 monthly meeting. "Personally, I think that's great."

Phil Kuhn, Hill-Rom research & development executive director, said, "It's just part of a multisite restructuring" after the company acquired additional sites domestically and internationally.

Hill-Rom leaders expect to hire 35 design, mechanical, software, electrical, systems and test engineers, according to him.

Kuhn reported, "Hill-Rom made an internal announcement yesterday" about job cuts happening at subsidiary Welch Allyn corporate headquarters in Skaneateles Falls, New York, and the Welch Allyn Beaverton Development and Technology Center, Beaverton, Oregon. "They will be given the option to relocate. We're going to post positions, likely as early as next Monday."

"We hope to have hiring done by mid-June. That's the target." Stronger university recruitment is a goal. "We need to refresh our workforce in R&D."

Member J.D. Showalter noted, "This group has had the discussion about the need to attract younger folks" to Batesville. He said BEDC members are willing to help Hill-Rom in any capacity.

Kuhn said, "We think we can get a small burst of employees" at graduation time.

The new hires will be housed in the company's State Road 46 innovation center, which will get an addition and interior cosmetic refresh. The Ritter Plant's interior also will be upgraded. "We are working with an architect currently on that." Hill-Rom will make a $4.3 million capital investment, according to a document McGuire read. The project timeline is about eight months beginning Feb. 1.

The Hill-Rom director observed, "It's the first time in a while we've had that kind of good news in Batesville." Of President and CEO John Groetelaars, who joined the company last May, Kuhn said, "He's certainly committed to Batesville ... and wants to see it grow. Obviously, I'm very excited about it." The expansion "really is a commitment" to local employees.

Member Ginnie Faller wondered why the Batesville site was chosen to expand. Kuhn answered, "It's the largest R&D center at Hill-Rom," plus Batesville "kind of reminds him of home." Groetelaars grew up on a Canadian farm. "I think he really wants to see Batesville thrive as the hub" for patient support systems.

Engineering work for subsidiary Liko's product line that is manufactured in Sweden will be done here under Kuhn's guidance.

According to the Hill-Rom website, "As an expert in the field of patient transfer and lifting solutions, Liko has been a part of Hill-Rom since 2008."

Hill-Rom officials asked Batesville leaders for a property tax abatement.

McGuire recalled, "The last few tax abatements we have done have been flat (same percent each year) ... rather than a declining scale" and lasted for five years instead of 10.

With input from others, he proposed a 30 percent tax abatement on the new investment in real property for 10 years, which would save Hill-Rom around $200,000 in taxes.

Faller asked what other communities do for companies that are growing and want help. "Is this high?"

Batesville economic development director Sarah Lamping said Batesville tax abatements are now variable in years and percentages, "which has provided us a great opportunity to be more creative in our incentives."

The president added, "What we try and do is meet the need of the company." According to Lamping, 'There are also opportunities at the state level for them to receive incentives."

Kuhn confirmed, "We certainly have had some dialogue with the state. It's difficult for us to control whether these people (new employees) live in Indiana ... The state's tracking permanent Indiana residents."

Member Kevin Campbell said, "We hope that all of them live in Batesville. If two of them do, we're still going to be happy and support this abatement."

BEDC voted to recommend that the city council grant Hill-Rom a 30 percent tax abatement over the next decade.

Of its effort to grow here, Faller said, "I thought this was a huge win for Batesville."

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

Also on the agenda

• After President Kevin McGuire was re-elected, these officers were elected for 2019: Vice President Kevin Campbell and Secretary Andy Saner.

• The city-owned and for sale shell building now has about three active leads. McGuire and other local leaders plus Colliers International brokers showed the structure to prospective company officials Jan. 3. They wanted to move quickly on a decision, but most likely are visiting other sites, too. Lamping said, "It's promising. A lot of time and energy have gone into" the latest lead.

• The broker contract with Colliers International expired Dec. 31. "We re-engaged with Colliers for a 12-month period," she reported. "Colliers has been good to work with. They provided us with information and expertise" on how to sell a commercial property and have sent email blasts and direct mail pieces about the building. McGuire, Lamping and Saner, also representing the Batesville Redevelopment Commission, continue monthly conference calls with the brokers.

• Applications for Indiana Economic Development Corp. grants promoting regionalism are due by Jan. 31. Five groups in southeast Indiana can apply for part of $100,000 earmarked for this region. She pointed out, "Batesville is in a good position" as it belongs to both the I-74 Corridor Group and Southeast Indiana Growth Alliance. The funding can be used for economic development experts to travel to meet with site selectors and companies and tout this area.

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