Dubois County.

Author:Kunz, Dave
Position:Economic development in Dubois County, Indiana
 
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Jasper and Huntingburg offer small-town values and big-city opportunities.

Small-town values and big-city opportunities make an excellent business climate in Jasper and Huntingburg, Dubois County's two largest communities.

Jasper is home to Kimball International, the county's largest employer with more than 7,000 employees worldwide and more than 3,000 in the county. Kimball's 1995 sales reached $895 million, with net earnings of almost $41.5 million. The company expects 1996 sales to top $1 billion.

Jasper embodies the small-town rallies that are the cornerstone of the American way of life, says Doug Habig, Kimball's president and CEO. There's little crime, plenty of work and excellent schools - factors which led to Jasper's recent listing as one of the 100 best small towns in America.

"The values and traditions here are not just indicative of Jasper but of small towns throughout Southern Indiana and Kentucky where we do business," Habig says. "People take pride in their communities, schools, churches and in their work. Those values are good for business and families."

Dubois County has a low unemployment rate, but that is a mixed blessing, Habig says. It's great that so many people have jobs, but it's hard for businesses to expand because of the labor shortage. Consequently, many of Kimball's recent expansions have been outside Dubois County, but "we're here and will continue to be here for a long time," he says.

Kimball began as Midwest Manufacturing. The small Jasper firm was failing when four local men, headed by Arnold Habig, bought controlling interest in the late 1940s and renamed it the Jasper Corp. In 1959, the corporation purchased the W.W. Kimball Piano and Organ Co. of Melrose Park, Ill., a well-respected piano manufacturer since the 1860s. The Jasper Corp. used the Kimball name when it went public in 1976.

These days, Kimball manufactures much more than pianos and office furniture. Over the years it branched out to include lodging and hospitality furniture, home furniture and television cabinets, along with electronic components for the computer, telecommunications and automotive industries.

Furniture manufacturing began in Jasper around 1869. The pioneer of the city's present woodworking industry was the Jasper Furniture Co., which was organized in 1876. The company changed its name to Jasper Desk Co. in 1921 and still operates under that name at the same 1876 site.

Aristokraft, another major woodworking company in Jasper...

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