400 new jobs coming to Kokomo, Carmel

A California-based tech company is expanding its operations in Carmel and Kokomo with plans to add 400 high-wage new jobs over the next four years.

Systems in Motion announced its expansion at an afternoon news conference attended by Gov. Mike Pence and Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight.

"Systems in Motion is proving that high tech is in high gear here in the Hoosier State," Pence said.

The Newark, California company acquired Indiana-based Zuna Infotech earlier this year. The company plans to invest $5.4 million to lease, renovate and equip its two Indiana locations.

Stephani Moore, Executive Vice President of Systems in Motion said the company chose to expand in Indiana because it's tough to beat the cost of doing business and the ready workforce.

Moore said, "Kokomo is a super-attractive area because it's trying to be revitalized, you have the space and you have the support from the local university system and the government."

The Kokomo operation will grow from 35 employees to nearly 300, relocating in a former Firestone tire outlet, vacant for several years.

It's being redone by a California developer who's taken on 21 commercial projects in Kokomo in the last seven months. One is renovating several vacant, historic buildings northwest of the square and turning them into apartments, restaurants and shops.

Broughton said he sees a lot of opportunity in Kokomo. He said not only is it very affordable, but roughly 10,000 people commute to the area each day.

"Commercial and residential properties are priced perfect for an investor to come in," he said. "And everything I've come in and developed has been leased right up."

Todd Rudicel, who opened the District, a restaurant and bar on the square three weeks ago said, "Systems in Motion is exactly brought me to Kokomo."

A native of Kokomo, who spent the last 15 years in Washington, DC said he was drawn back home not just by Kokomo's potential, but what's happening in the town now.

"Having grown up here, there wasn't this energy downtown," Rudicel said. "It wasn't present when I was growing up. Now it's just a buzz, a lot of new businesses and lot of big things going on."

While the automotive industry still drives the economy, Goodnight said Kokomo is not only diversifying but making its downtown more livable, adding things like a new Family YMCA.

It's a dramatic turnaround for a community that saw unemployment hovering around 20 percent at the height of the recession. The jobless rate is now just under 6 percent.

As Broughton said, "it used to be one of the worst places to live and now it's a great place."

Systems in Motion will begin moving in to its new location later this year. The state offered the company more than $5.7 million in tax credits and training grants to expand in Indiana, incentives conditional on those new jobs being filled.