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BAE’s fate in city on table

Move among many options considered for 1,100 jobs

BAE Systems officials are discussing options for the Fort Wayne operation’s future, a union official confirmed Thursday afternoon.

But no final decision has been made where to move – or even whether to move – about 1,100 jobs, said Brent Eastom, president of IUE-CWA Local 901, which represents BAE’s hourly workers.

“It’s all rumor, speculation and conjecture,” he said of reports that the British defense contractor is pulling up stakes and heading across the state border to either Van Wert or Paulding, Ohio.

Greg White, Paulding’s mayor, said Thursday he’s not aware of any discussion involving BAE and his community. Don Farmer, Van Wert’s mayor, said he couldn’t comment.

Mark Becker, CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., also said he couldn’t comment. The nonprofit organization takes the lead on local economic development efforts, including offering employers incentives to invest locally rather than relocate if their current facilities are deemed inadequate.

BAE now leases office and production space from General Electric at 2000 Taylor St. Much of GE’s once-bustling campus along Broadway has devolved into a brick blight scarred by broken windows.

GE officials have said they’re committed to Fort Wayne and want what’s best for the city in terms of using or redeveloping the campus. It’s unclear whether GE has any plans in the works.

GE spokesman Matt Conkrite, based in Chicago, couldn’t be reached Thursday. He previously told The Journal Gazette that GE has been talking to local economic development officials about options for the mostly vacant property that’s about four times the size of Harrison Square.

As of last year, BAE operations director Bob Hoffman sat on the board of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, which has merged into Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

In that position, Hoffman would be well aware of incentives the company might be able to secure from the state, county and city. Indiana officials previously have stressed that tax breaks and other financial incentives are awarded to companies that are genuinely at risk of moving out of state.

Jeff Benzing, BAE spokesman, didn’t return a phone message seeking comment for this story. Neither did John Perlich, Mayor Tom Henry’s spokesman.