This week, Cummins Inc. announced an expansion including the addition of 290 jobs.
But where will those new employees and others coming for recent job announcements from Aisin USA, Valeo">Valeo Sylvania and others live?
Cheryl Stuckwish of Prudential Indiana Realty in Seymour said she thinks the expansions will affect housing in all areas. She said the new jobs locating here support the local economy at every level, but the first step is to provide housing.
“We have to give choices for the families so they find it a place they want to live,” Stuckwish said.
Darren Wildman, manager of Cummins’ Seymour Engine Plant, said he hopes many of his new workers will choose to live in Seymour.
“For a plant manager, you like having people live nearby,” Wildman said after Cummins announced its $219 million expansion. “It helps them become part of your community and helps them stay longer.”
Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce President Bill Bailey said the community already has a shortage of housing that will only grow with this expansion, unless steps are taken to deal with the situation.
Bailey said the community must work together as a unit to bridge the gap, starting with speculative housing, even though it seems the current market is working against it.
“The ability of contractors or developers to build spec homes is drastically different than it was five or six years ago,” he said. “There are new regulations for loans, builders and developers got burned on projects that didn’t turn out and just the costs for asphalt, plumbing and construction are higher.”
Local contractor Joe Wayman has built custom homes in Jackson County for more than 50 years. While he serves general contracting needs, he builds mostly higher-end homes. Realtors, he said, have sold out of what’s available — old and new.
“For the community to attract the newcomers to the area, we need to have houses to show them,” Wayman said.
Currently, he is finishing one higher-end home in Seymour that will be ready to sell in about two weeks.
Wayman agreed with Bailey that financial institutions must support new building projects.
With the announcement of the Cummins project, Wayman said, now is the time to build new housing.
“Community growth comes through everyone working together,” he stressed.
While securing loans has been difficult, Wayman sees this as the opportunity to take the gamble.
“There are not enough houses because (projects are not) being financed,” he said.
Bailey said if Seymour can’t provide the homes for new workers, someone else will. In similar situations, buyers have turned to contractors in Indianapolis or other surrounding communities who can meet their needs, he said, and many have chosen to live outside Jackson County.
Stuckwish said housing has always been related to consumer confidence. Those who have stable jobs make larger purchases, such as houses. She said that when an employer such as Cummins brings secure jobs and confident consumers, it is good for the local economy.
“This issue is one of several that is the body language of a growing community that has an amazingly wonderful opportunity,” Bailey said. “We have to see it as an opportunity, not a problem.”
Bailey said that in the coming weeks, the chamber will have conversations with contractors and developers to see what can be done. He said it is important for the city and the chamber to encourage lenders and developers.
“By working through it, we will be much better for generations to come,” Bailey said.
Seymour Building Commissioner Jeremy Gray expects a surge in more home construction permits with the recent hiring announcements. Gray said permits have been slow in the past few years, but his department is expecting to be busy “within the next few months and years.”
Gray said with all the recent hiring announcements — including Cummins, Aisin, Valeo Sylvania and Pet Supplies Plus — he hopes those people choose to live in Seymour.
Gray also said that there are plenty of lots available in the county for developing. A new subdivision, Prairie Wind, developed by Kevin Arthur, will have 32 lots available, he said, and pointed to available lots in Devonshire and Bellford subdivisions as well as Weslin Estates.
Jackson County Building Commissioner Mike Weir agreed there’s a need for higher-end homes. He, too, lamented the problem of loan availability, despite interest rates being at an all-time low.
While there is a need, Weir questioned whether the county can catch up with it before the boom is over. He suggests local contractors may have to use subcontractors to complete projects they normally do themselves, such as plumbing and roofing.