EARLIER: Harley narrows choice to 3 sites

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By Lisa King

The chances that Harley-Davidson will relocate its largest plant from southern Pennsylvania to Shelby County just got a little better.

The company has now eliminated Kansas City, Mo., Bob Klein, director of corporate communication for Harley-Davidson, confirmed Thursday, leaving Shelby County as one three finalists.

"We have narrowed our alternate site options to Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee," he said. "The Missouri proposal had many positives, but we determined that for purposes of possible alternative sites, the proposals from the other states are a better match."

Kansas City had been under consideration because Harley-Davidson already has a plant in operation there and owns unoccupied land next to the plant. On the other hand, the company has already begun to downsize that operation, and is considering laying off 460 employees, about half its workforce.

Still in the running with Shelby County are Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Shelbyville, Ind.

An announcement of the two finalists could come in September.

"We expect to make a final decision by the end of the year," Klein said.

Harley is considering moving its plant from Springettsbury Township, Pa., where it has operated since 1974. It employs about 2,000 workers and is Harley-Davidson's largest vehicle assembly plant.

Company officials are reviewing their options to reduce expenses because of a 37 percent decline in revenue in the first half of the year. Officials in York are working with the company to keep the plant in place.

Klein said that the company is continuing to explore its options in the three remaining states under consideration.

"We are evaluating a number of factors, such as operating costs and geographic proximity to our markets, as well as availability of a skilled labor force. So all these things are factors," he said.

Klein added that Harley-Davidson will continue to keep officials at the sites under consideration advised, but local officials say they did not know about the elimination of the Kansas City site.

"We have not heard anything about that," said Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial Development Foundation. "The last news we had there were still four."

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said he just hopes that Shelby County continues to remain in the game.

"We're staying vigilant and just keeping our fingers crossed that we continue to stay in the running," he said. "Harley-Davidson will be an extremely great asset for Shelby County."