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The last International Harvester truck rolls off the assembly line…

By OSP

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-08-21


By the 1970s, the energy crisis and recession had dealt a blow to the American auto industry. Sagging sales of the Scout led Harvester to cease its production in 1980. Demand for new heavy trucks also lagged, and there was widespread dissatisfaction among its workers over wages and job security. In 1979, 8,000 UAW workers walked off the job in a major labor strike. Though it was settled after 172 days, a nationwide recession brought continuing layoffs and disappointing sales to both the company’s truck and agricultural machinery divisions. By September 1981, more than half of Harvester’s work force was unemployed. The UAW made $200 million in concessions, but by July 1982, the company was faced with closing either its Springfield, Ohio, or Fort Wayne plant in order to save it from bankruptcy. Allen County and the state of Indiana offered a $30 million package of tax breaks and incentives in order to keep the plant open. When a competing bid came from Springfield, the challenge of the two cities garnered national media attention.

In the end, Harvester announced on September 27, 1982, that it would close the Fort Wayne plant, which by that date had become a shadow of its former self. All truck operations would move to Springfield. The last truck rolled off the assembly line on July 15, 1983, and an era in the city’s industrial history ended. In the years that followed, the company would weather its own financial downturn and enter the booming nineties under a new name, Navistar. For several years a number of Fort Wayne workers would take a daily bus on a 125-mile trek to Springfield in order to preserve their jobs and retirement pensions.


Excerpt from Allen County History Book

Photo courtesy of The History Center/Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society
302 East Berry Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
(260) 426-2882

www.fwhistorycenter.com

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