Decision 2012 On The Road: Greensburg facing challenges
Note: WTHR is visiting 12 Indiana towns and cities as part of our Decision 2012 On The Road Tour. You can see a full schedule and more stories here.
Greensburg is a town full of surprises. It is home to an inexplicable landmark, and while it is also home to Honda, it touts one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
It is not unusual at all to see a charter bus pull up and drop people off at the Decatur County Courthouse. They come to see the city of trees - or more specifically the flowering tree that protrudes from its dome.
What they see is a town in transition. There are vacant businesses along the town square and a longtime landmark that has existed since 1865 that is now on the verge of closing.
A lifelong Greensburg resident, Mike Greiwe opened up DawgHaus Diner in November 2010.
"We hate to see some close. Been here for many years. It's just a sign of the times, really. Then we have some new ones on the flip side," he said, speaking of business closures in his town.
The Carriage House on the Square Smokehouse is scheduled to open in October. When Hans Schneiber saw the Greensburg square, he saw an opportunity.
"We picked it. We've been doing a lot of remodeling down here, as you can see on the square. As soon as we saw that we knew Greensburg was headed in the right direction. We are really excited about that and wanted to be a part of that," said Schneiber.
Like most Indiana communities, Greensburg is struggling with a flailing economy. It is home to just over 11,000 people. Some 28,000 people call Decatur County home.
If you stop in Greensburg, you're advised to stop at Story's restaurant where they're known for their pie. The conversation is great as well.
"I like the caring part of that more than anything. Where we come from, we are in a big city. You don't have that up there. You may know your immediate neighbor but here you know everybody and that makes a big difference," said Kathy Tarzwell, Greensburg.
That means they also know who lost their jobs. With a nine percent unemployment rate, Greensburg's unemployment rate is higher than the state average.
"The talk when Honda came, it was going to bring a lot of attractions to clothing, Kohl's, grocery stores, things that would be employment to the area besides Honda. But it hasn't happened yet," said Darlene Sullivan, Greensburg.
Mayor Gary Herbert is planning a trip to Japan to thank Honda for locating in his city and encourage more development here. He has some other irons in the fire.
"We have three companies who can expand at the current time. That is in the process and it's going to happen," said the mayor.
Mark Burkert with Game Plan Graphics admits there have been tough times, and with three businesses in a row closing down, he knows the worst isn't over. Still, he's optimistic in his hope that new businesses will see an opportunity and jump in.
"A lot of small towns are losing businesses, it's just the name of the game. We've had quite a few factories close down but we always seem to come back. One of the pluses is adding Honda five or six years ago. It is now our biggest employer but you do have to adapt and create a niche and that is what we did at our small business Game Plan," he said.
Burkert decided to raise his family in Greensburg after growing up there.
"When I went to college at Ball State, met my wife there and swore I would never live in a small town. I wanted to be in a big city but after we got married and had children I couldn't think of a better place to raise my kids. I grew up here. My wife is from near here. Great schools. Everybody knows everybody. Almost a Mayberry feeling. I can't think of a better place to raise my kids," he said. "This is the place I am going to be. I love Greensburg."