First the automotive industry was on the brink, and the very future of Kokomo was in doubt. And then a worldwide recession cost thousands more jobs.
Kokomo has been to hell and back since 2008, when Greg Goodnight was sworn in as Mayor. Delphi had declared bankruptcy, and the same fate appeared set to befall Chrysler. Half of all jobs in Kokomo were at stake. Layoffs were coming by the thousands, and businesses were shutting down. The city was called “one of the fastest dying” places in America.
Greg Goodnight knew that he might be the last mayor to lead Kokomo as we knew it. He didn’t flinch.
Instead, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He recruited other Hoosier mayors to fight for our jobs as a team, embarked on a nationwide media tour to advocate for our city, and lobbied national leaders to secure loans to ensure the survival of Chrysler and General Motors.
He told anyone who would listen Kokomo’s story, doing so at Fiat’s Italy headquarters, the Yale School of Management, and the Chamber of Commerce. For months he did nothing else.
Greg Goodnight knew the odds were long, but he never quit fighting for Kokomo.
He directed the city to expand its loan program for small businesses by ten-fold. The city’s economic development campaign convinced Westwind Wood Specialties, a Kansas-based company, to move to Kokomo and invest more than $1 million in the city. Zuna Infotech is creating 400 new jobs, and Stephens Machine is expanding again. While once the auto industry built inefficient gas guzzlers, now Kokomo workers are building the cars of the future, and Chrysler is investing more than a billion dollars to do it – the largest investment in Kokomo in a generation. Delphi is committing $90 million to build cutting-edge electric cars, hiring 190 new employees. The city’s factories have begun calling back laid-off workers. 14 new small businesses have opened downtown.
There's still a lot of work left to be done: Kokomo families are still struggling, and the city's recovery has only just begun. Tested and tough, Greg Goodnight is prepared to work every day for the next four years to bring Kokomo back.