A dozen new jobs are coming to Berne with the announcement Monday night that a metal fabrication firm is expanding into that city.
In an unusual twist for a landlocked community, the new jobs will involve the construction of barges to be used on some of the country's largest waterways.
Kip Gerber, president of Ring-R Engineering, appeared before Berne City Council to request tax abatement and the establishment of an economic revitalization area for the new venture, which will be located in the former Berne Apparel building at 750 East Parr Road.
The site will be used to construct river barges up to 40 feet in length and weighing 33,000 pounds each. Gerber said the company plans a $560,000 investment in new manufacturing equipment for the business, which also will manufacture agricultural tillage products.
The company will initially employ 13-16 "and will add more as the company grows," Gerber said.
Ring-R Engineering currently operates a metal fabrication facility at 6691 State Route 124, near the Adams-Wells County line.
Adams County Economic Development Director Larry Macklin said Ring-R's expansion "is great news for Berne and an example of economic development at its best." And he said the company's presence in Berne could have greater ramifications down the road.
Macklin said the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership group, of which Adams County is a member, has singled out the defense industry at a possible target for future economic expansion. Because Ring-R constructs the type of barges that needed by the military, "this could be a huge win for us," Macklin said.
He told the Berne City Council that Ring-R is "a good corporate citizen that you'll enjoy having in your community."
Berne attorney Jim Beitler, who serves as legal counsel for the company, requested a public hearing for 8 p.m. on October 11 — during the city council's next regular meeting — as the next step in granting tax abatement for the firm and the establishment of an economic revitalization area.
"It's a good day when we can partner with good people; local people. We're really happy to have them in Berne, Indiana," said Beitler.