In 1937 Chrysler established the automaker’s first manufacturing operation in Kokomo when the former Haynes Automobile plant on Home Avenue was converted to build manual transmissions.
That was the start of an incredible relationship between the City of Firsts and one of America’s leading auto manufacturers. Since that time, not only has our relationship grown, but Chrysler’s investment in our community has as well —and exponentially at that!
Decade after decade as the auto industry grew, Chrysler’s footprint in Kokomo expanded into the presence we have today. And after a number of mergers at the turn of the century and a few minor setbacks from 2007 to 2009, Chrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA) is as strong as ever and is once again investing in Kokomo. We welcome this continued commitment to the Kokomo area.
Back in 2011 State Representative Mike Karickhoff offered in his salute the importance of Chrysler’s continued investment in Kokomo. Karickhoff’s thoughts then were very similar to my own feelings now as mayor in 2020. He discussed how it would be difficult to imagine what the City of Kokomo would look like without FCA. In fact it would be hard to fathom any city with a population of over 58,000 continuing to thrive without an employer of nearly 8,000 jobs.
Again in 2008 to 2009 when our nation was trying to recover from near economic collapse, Kokomo remained confident that our largest employer had a plan to prevent the worst from happening. As a result of that plan, our plants remained open, the production lines kept moving, and our friends and neighbors still had jobs. We were blessed.
Fortunately we didn’t lose Chrysler then, but there was a point when we wondered what Kokomo might look like without them — and it didn’t look good.
“Unfortunately, we have seen what happens to automotive towns when plants close and jobs leave the city,” wrote Karickhoff. “There is a ripple effect felt through the entire community. People are forced to move and other businesses begin to close. It is a scenario no community wants to face.”
Fortunately we didn’t face that scenario, and Kokomo and Chrysler/FCA remained resilient. Now with FCA’s recent announcement to invest an additional $400 million in Kokomo’s ITP II plant, the future of the automotive industry in Kokomo looks even brighter.
This proposed investment will support assembly of the GMET4 engine and marks the first time FCA has built an engine in Indiana. The new four-cylinder engine will improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions. However, the best news from this announcement for Kokomo is that production of this new engine will require a workforce of more than 1,000 by the end of 2021, with all of these positions being filled through a combination of FCA’s current employees and new hires.
This speaks volumes of the reputation our local workforce possesses and the amount of trust FCA has in that workforce! And this fact isn’t just true now but has been recognized by Chrysler/FCA year after tear since 1937.
Countless FCA corporate executives have been champions for Kokomo’s workforce over the years, and Brad Clark, current Vice President – Head of Engine and Transmission Manufacturing for FCA North America, is no different.
“Our Indiana operations have historically been known as the largest transmission installation in the world,” Clark recently stated. “With this potential investment, FCA has the opportunity to diversify our presence in the region. We look forward to working with the state and city of Kokomo to finalize our investment plans.”
Thank you, Mr. Clark, for your faith. Thank you, FCA, for your continued trust. And thank YOU, Kokomo workforce, for your unsurpassed dedication