MUNCIE, Ind. – A little more than eight years after Brevini was introduced as Muncie and Delaware County’s gateway to the new world of green energy, the Italian company is doing a slow fade from local view.
The announcement in late 2008 that Brevini, a European maker of gearboxes for industries worldwide, would move its North American headquarters from Illinois to Muncie and also open Brevini Wind in the Park One/332 industrial park at Interstate 69 and Ind. 332 was greeted with equal parts skepticism and hope.
Brevini took over an old building and built a new one along the interstate in far western Delaware County with plans to hire 450 workers. The plans were so big – and the gearboxes to be built so huge – that the county spent millions of dollars to extend a rail line to Brevini. The manufacturing operation would have been a return for large-scale industry at about the time Chevrolet and BorgWarner Automotive had closed or were closing in Muncie.
But if the kind of wind energy turbines that Brevini would supply gearboxes for was ever to take off, it wasn’t in the fall of 2008. The stock market nearly collapsed, the economy moved into recession and companies around the world retrenched.
Ultimately, only a few dozen people were employed by the gearbox maker and Brevini began paying penalties to Delaware County for failing to create jobs. The company paid $375,000 to the county in 2015 and is due to pay more than $800,000 in the next few weeks.
The exact amount of this penalty payment, and if it will be the last one to be paid, will be determined after Brevini reports its latest employment and capital investment numbers to the county, Brad Bookout, the county’s economic development officer, told The Star Press.
“The county commissioners have tasked me with staying on top of that for them and ensuring the county gets payback,” Bookout said. “When companies fail, we stay on them.”
The county had 50 or more workers in 2015, Bookout said, adding, “I believe it will be less than that this time.
“Eventually they’ll have zero,” he said.
In the meantime, Brevini appears to be closing up shop in Delaware County.
Ohio-based Dana Incorporated announced in November that it had purchased power transmission and fluid power elements of Brevini Group for 325 million Euros. Brevini employs 2,300 people around the world.
The purchase includes Brevini’s planetary gearbox division. It’s unclear if Dana is also purchasing either or both of Brevini’s buildings in Delaware County. Property records indicated last week that the two Park One buildings are still in Brevini’s name. The smaller building visible from Ind. 332 on six acres is valued at $2.4 million, while the larger building behind it on 16 acres is valued at $4.7 million.
The commissioners have been trying to get some use out of the rail spur built for Brevini, including use of it for local companies to load large shipments for rail transport. The county was on the brink of buying from Brevini some land along the rail spur to build a loading platform but Brevini canceled the sale, costing the county a $400,000 federal economic development grant.