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MUNCIE, IN-For more than 100 years, the former Warner Gear plant property here avoided closure as it switched in the 1940s to building Ford’s first automatic transmission, then to manual transmissions, then to various differential cases for automakers that included General Motors Corp. However, BorgWarner announced Feb. 8 that it will shutter the 59-acre property, which includes a 1.3-million-sf, 1930s-era building. Now, community leaders are scrambling about what to do about the large property, and the 700 jobs the city will lose during the next two years.

The company announced that it will close the company’s Drivetrain Group plant, citing customer restructuring and significantly lower production schedules, by the expiration of the current labor agreement in April 2009. Terry Murphy, vice president of the Muncie Delaware County Economic Development Alliance, says that obviously the closing will have a negative impact on the community, and that the property will be hard to fill.

“We have two years before they close, that gives us some time to hopefully attract us some new business here,” Murphy tells GlobeSt.com. “The quality of the building doesn’t compare well to new, modern buildings today. The building lacks features like 24-foot-high ceilings, it has close to 20-foot-high ceilings. For the right user, that might not matter.”

The plant is the largest employer in the area. The building has been added onto for many years, and includes more than 73,000 sf of office space. The property was formerly a star of the Development Alliance, with a GM contract that promised more than 300 new jobs and $52 million in new investment. The project earned the company a $215,000 training grant and a $4.1-million Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit from the state.

Murphy says BorgWarner has not said what they plan to do with the property. “We will be having a discussion with the corporate office,” he says. “The property will probably have to be subdivided, there’s not that many one-million-sf users” Officials from the company’s headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI did not return calls for comment.

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