Following Honda Motor Co.’s announcement that it would hire workers for its new Greensburg, Indiana, assembly plant from only 20 surrounding counties, several Democratic lawmakers are questioning this hiring policy.
In a letter to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the lawmakers argue that since Honda received a state incentive package of $141.5 million, the hiring process should be open to all Indiana residents in 92 counties.
The authors — including state representatives Dennis Tyler, Scott Reske, Terri Austin, along with state senators Sue Errington and Tim Lanane — allege that a “restriction of eligibility to residents of just 20 specific counties is of great concern to many Hoosiers.”
The letter notes, in part, that the lawmakers “acknowledge that private interests have some rights regarding employment policies, provided they do not discriminate unfairly. However, the generous state tax incentives and subsidies provided to Honda clearly represent a major public role in bringing this investment to Indiana.”
The letter also states that “residents of Delaware and Madison Counties, in particular the cities of Muncie and Anderson, have seen many well-paying manufacturing jobs disappear, and we have many highly skilled workers who would benefit Honda tremendously.”
“Our constituents pay state income and sales taxes, and therefore they directly helped bring Honda to Indiana through the targeted use of their tax dollars. For any Hoosier to be denied even the opportunity to apply for a position seems grossly unfair.”
The letter also cites an October 10 Wall Street Journal article regarding Alabama officials who required Honda to take applications from anyone in the state when granting incentives for a new plant.
Although the initial hiring period for Honda is over, the lawmakers are requesting a meeting with Secretary of Commerce Feltman, who heads up the economic development policies. In addition to requesting that the policy be re-evaluated, the lawmakers suggested that the General Assembly intervene to decide whether this is appropriate policy for Indiana.
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Indiana Economic Development Corp. spokesman Mitch Frazier said the office has received the letter and is responding to it.
“As part of our response we will correct the inaccuracies cited in the letter and we reaffirm our excitement that 2,000 Hoosiers will have new jobs in Greensburg when Honda opens their facility,” says Frazier.
Tom Shoupe, senior vice president at Honda of America Manufacturing, told the Cincinnati Enquirer last week that this is simply Honda’s “approach to be imbedded in the communities where we operate.”
In fact, Honda spokesman David Iida says the company “based the 20-county hiring radius for production associates on three things, safe driving distance and on-time attendance, diverse workforce, and limiting hiring to the state of Indiana. These were our three criteria.”
Honda’s new Greenburg location, which will make about 200,000 Honda Civics a year, is set to open next fall. Hourly wages will start at just under $15 an hour.