ThyssenKrupp officials announced Wednesday they delayed making a decision on a plan to consolidate their crankshaft operations because of a need to address new financial considerations.

The German company now doesn’t expect to decide where the consolidated manufacturing facility will be located until spring.

Initially, the company’s executive board expected to make a decision in mid-December.

The $40 million project, which would include state-of–the-art machining equipment and related training, would combine Danville’s machining operations with similar operations in Fostoria, Ohio, into a single location employing 450.

ThyssenKrupp’s project team will continue to detail plans for both sites, Adolf Pfeiffer, president of the crankshaft division, said in a company press release.

Local officials remained optimistic Wednesday, saying the delay doesn’t mean Danville is out of the running for the consolidated facility that would preserve 219 jobs and add 230.

“I would imagine it’s a difficult decision. No decision of that nature should be rushed,” Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with ThyssenKrupp in the community. It’s strongly encouraging that as they continue their deliberations that Danville is still in the forefront.”

Both Danville and Fostoria plants machine crankshafts for the North American heavy-duty automotive, truck and engine markets.

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said the financial considerations cited by company officials might not have anything to do with the incentive packages being offered by Illinois and Ohio to woo the manufacturer, but rather the timing of a federal mandate on ultra-low-sulfur diesel engines.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Black said of the delayed decision. “Automotive-related business is entering a downtime because of federal mandates.”

Black referred to a Wall Street Journal story published Monday that said North American sales of heavy-duty trucks were to hit their highest level this year — double the overall diesel truck sales in 2001 — because large trucking firms are buying 2006 model diesel trucks before new federal environmental rules take effect in January.

Next month, new diesel trucks will have to meet stringent emission requirements, but the new trucks will cost 10 percent more and get fewer miles to the gallon, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the buying frenzy has helped boost automotive manufacturing in the Midwest this year, the Wall Street Journal and Black predict a sharp decline in the demand for new diesel trucks next year that could lead to layoffs.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Cummins diesel engines and Caterpillar have layoffs,” Black said.

He said ThyssenKrupp is wise to “wait and see” what the market bears for diesel engine components next year before moving forward with the consolidation plan.

“The automotive business is cyclical. There will be a re-adjustment and re-evaluation of their core business,” he said of ThyssenKrupp.

“I don’t think this is bad news for Danville,” Black said. “I’m still optimistic Danville is in the thick of things.

“I think we have a tremendous incentive package that will compete with anything Ohio can come up with, and we have a long history with ThyssenKrupp.”

Vicki Haugen, president and CEO of Vermilion Advantage, believes no news is good news.

“While I feel the local and state incentive offering presented to the company for this project demonstrated our collective ‘above-and-beyond’ desire to retain and grow this part of Thyssen’s business in Danville, we also know that the decision will be strategic and based on many long-term factors,” she said.

“That is why it is important that we have a strong relationship with the company — and our other major employers — to continually monitor issues affecting them so we can be proactive rather than reactive in trying to keep Vermilion County competitive,” she said.

“At the end of the day, a growth-ready, cost-competitive environment will always be our strongest incentive.”

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