Mayor confident in Th!nk North Americas future in Elkhart
ELKHART, Ind.--If you drive by Th!nk North America, on Elkhart’s east side, it looks closed; the parking lot is empty, the gate is locked, and a for-lease sign stands out front. While the building may look vacant from the outside, the City’s Mayor said it is not empty on the inside.
“In fact, the signs are going the other way. Just recently they distributed thirteen automobiles all across northern Indiana,” said Dick Moore, Mayor of Elkhart.
Moore said he just recently talked with executives at the plant, who confirmed the company is not closing anytime soon, despite its parent company, Th!nk Global AS, filing for bankruptcy over the summer of 2011.
“It’s [production] been down for some time. But in that, it’s kind of complicated because there was a bankruptcy proceeding in Norway,” Moore said. “It may take a little time to really get it going again. But I think we’re going to see some production there very soon.”
Just recently, Th!nk handed out the keys to cars to 13 Northern Indiana communities, including Elkhart. The city already had a blue car, which it purchased for just half of the sticker price because of stimulus dollars available, but snagged a red car for free.
“When they asked us if we would like to have another one, I asked if we could have six. Because I could run them every day,” the Mayor said laughingly.
Moore said if, however, Th!nk was to close its gates in Elkhart for good, the economic impact on his city would come to jobs.
“We have a very low financial loss with them. So I think the loss is losing the expected 415 jobs; that’s what will hurt the most,” he said.
Th!nk had said it would create 415 jobs by 2013, and invest $57 million in property, but the company has not come close to either goals.
“All the tough times they went through, the bankruptcy and all of that, I can understand that slowed things down. But I’m still optimistic,” said Moore.
Moore said the Elkhart is establishing a new mail route; instead of having different departments venture to City Hall to pick up mail, Moore said instead, someone will drive a Th!nk car to deliver the mail, saving on fuel and lowering emissions.
Moore added that by driving the cars, the City is helping promote the brand, and raising consumer awareness.
While the company has not reached its goal of having over 100 employees this year alone, Moore said he is confident Th!nk will continue to operate and grow its Elkhart facility.
“They do intend to produce cars in North America, that’s the word we get. And they do intend to produce them right here in Elkhart,” said Moore. “So that’s what we know. That’s what we have to go on. And we’re hopeful that that’s the way it will be.”