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EARLIER: County continues to court Harley-Davidson

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By Lisa King

 The window for a hoped-for announcement in September has come and gone, and officials in Shelby County say they have not heard anything further about whether Harley-Davidson is nearer a decision about the future of its largest plant.

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Officials had said earlier that they hoped to see the list of three potential sites—Shelby County, Shelbyville, Ind., and Murfreesboro, Tenn.—trimmed to two by the end of September. Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said he wishes he could say he has heard something optimistic. “It would suit me if they would call up here and say they’re coming here,” he said Thursday. “The whole community is excited about it; it would be a great opportunity for us.” Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation, said she has not heard anything further from Harley-Davidson. “We expect a decision by the end of the year,” she said. Harley officials started to consider other locations for their plant located outside York, Pa., as they seek new operational efficiencies. A list of possible sites for a move originally was trimmed to four cities, but Kansas City was eliminated last month. Bob Klein, director of corporate communication for Harley-Davidson, said earlier that the company would make a final decision on whether to keep the plant in York or decide on a site for the plant’s relocation by the end of the year. One key move in Shelby County was Fiscal Court’s unprecedented request last month for a zoning change of 214 acres - separate parcels of 150 and 64 acres - from agriculture to industrial, which would create a potential site for a plant that could employ about 2,000. Magistrates approved the first reading of that zoning change on Sept. 15, but various officials said Thursday that they had not heard when it would be scheduled for a second reading. Jenny King, administrative assistant at the Shelby County Fiscal Court, said she has the agenda ready for the next court meeting, which is Tuesday night, and a second reading has not been scheduled, although it could be added before the meeting. Planner Mike Perkins with the Triple S Planning Commission said to his knowledge a date for a second reading has not yet been set. Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson, a company that generated $5.6 billion in revenue last year but has seen significant decline in sales in the first half of 2009, continues to restructure its operation. Klein had said that relocation was one way the company was looking at to make the facility more cost effective. The plant currently employs around 2,000 workers, but Klein confirmed Thursdaythat Harley-Davidson did lay off 71 employees as of Monday. The company will begin union bargaining soon, Klein said. “We expect to enter into contract negotiations with our local union at York,” he said. “We still plan to make a final decision by the end of the year.”