Wisconsin Business Group: Keep Buell in East Troy

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A private-public economic development group operating in a region that includes East Troy, Wis., has launched an effort to keep Buell Motorcycles production in the area.

A spokesman for the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance says that the group effort is meant to stop the loss of a business that employees 180 in a town of 4,500. Such a loss will have a big impact on East Troy, says Fred Burkhardt, executive VP of the Alliance.

A team of officials from the Village of East Troy, the Walworth County Board and the East Troy Chamber of Commerce is seeking a meeting first with company founder and namesake Erik Buell to find out where he stands on the proposal, and then with Harley-Davidson to see what options are available.

"This wasn't a brainstorm, this was a mandate," says Burkhardt about the proposal to keep Buell that was made shortly after Harley announced it was shutting down its Buell line. "This really wasn't a discretionary call. We must go out and see what we can do."

Burkhardt stressed that the agency has a vested interest in keeping Buell around and speculated on the possibility of Harley-Davidson divesting itself of the the sportbike line rather than shutting it down. "I guess if Hummer can unwind from GM, Buell can unwind from Harley."

Upon announcing last week that it's third quarter net income was down 71.6 percent and revenue was down 17.1 percent, the Motor Co. said that it would shut down production of Buell and sell off the recently purchased MV Agusta.

In response to a question from Dealernews about the Walworth County group's proposal, Bob Klein, Harley-Davidson's director of corporate communications, says Buell will be shuttered.

"As we have indicated, we are discontinuing the Buell product line rather than selling the business because of how deeply integrated Buell is into our business systems and distribution network," Klein says.