Progress Rail gets federal money, adds 80 more jobs
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - That big locomotive manufacturer, Progress Rail, a subsidiary of Caterpillar, is putting more work into the former Westinghouse plant locally, and planning to hire 80 more people in upcoming months.
That news came when Delaware County Commissioners handed over $950,000 in federal funds on Monday to help build a new paint facility inside the plant that manufacturers locomotives for primarily third world rail systems. The investment and extra hiring adds to the $50 million in renovation and 280 jobs now located at the plant on Cowan Road.
Brad Bookout, the county's redevelopment director, explained the money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, would help secure more work besides be an extra investment into the building.
A group of Progress Rail officials, including local plant manager Jim Slavonski accepted the public gift and explained how more jobs would be added. Progress just held a job fair last spring that bumped its employment up to 280. Pay at Progress Rail ranges between $12 to $18 an hour depending on whether workers are material handlers, assemblers or technicians, welders or painters. The demand is always for welders who mold pieces of the locomotive together.
Benefits at the factory are the best with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage only $8.08 a week and a zero deductible for major medical. Dental is included and vision is only $1.48 a week.
Todd Donati commissioners president, said Progress Rail made a big impact on the local economy, hiring skilled tradesmen and adding millions in payroll and service contracts from the former large transformer plant.
There seemed to be a summer slump at the local plant as Progress is on constant search of new sales for their locomotives. Their North American assembly facility in Muncie just got a southern sister last month when the company announced plans to open a new assembly plant in South America in the booming economy of Brazil. That plant will be located at Sete Lagoas in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Billy Ainsworth, president and CEO of Progress Rail, said the plant would serve the growing South American transit market. More than 600 jobs will be created.
Caterpillar is still the largest worldwide manufacturer of trucks, construction and mining equipment besides having its Progress and others subsidiaries building locomotives. The company reported $41.5 billion in sales in 2010.