At the first Kosciusko County Council meeting of the year, economic development was the primary topic of discussion.
“Being the first of the year I thought it would be good to summarize last year,” reported George Robertson, president of Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation. “We had a number of expansions, we filled most of our large buildings.”
“Last year we started addressing the need for shell buildings,” said Robertson. “We start marketing a building as soon as construction starts. There’s a big push for us to get buildings in the coming year.”
Robertson is confident that shell buildings would be filled if constructed. “If you look around globally, we’re still the safest place to invest,” he said. KEDCo plans to court automotive supply industries to the area, in addition to medical device manufacturers.
“The other area you’ll see work on is workforce,” Robertson said. Though unemployment is down in the county, the availability of a skilled workforce has started to dwindle also.
Roberston says KEDCo has been working with WorkOne, Ivy Tech Community College and Grace College to create a pipeline to get skilled workers into the workforce. He said there is a “boot camp” in the works for the spring that will be designed to get recent high school grads the training they need to excel in manufacturing.
Robertson also stressed “talent retention.” KEDCo will focus on internships so that students who leave the area have more incentive to come back after graduation.
Since the elimination of the personal property tax is a hot button topic at the moment, councilman Robert Sanders asked Robertson, “How important is [the personal property tax] to the industry?”
“Generally, we haven’t lost companies because of personal property tax,” said Robertson, who opposes eliminating the tax. Indiana has some of the lowest tax rates in the country, and removing the personal property tax would strain revenue for economic development.
Also during the meeting the council elected its officers for 2014. Robert Sanders was voted to remain president, and Larry Teghtmeyer will again act as vice president.
Before the meeting adjourned, Jo Paczkowski came forward representing the Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission. The KCCRVC was being asked by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer to contribute $5,000 to the $2 million study being completed by the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. (See related)
Paczkowski wanted guidance from the council on whether or not KCCRVC would be allowed to use its funds for the project. Ultimately, the council decided to discuss it further and would have an answer for her next week.