At it’s March 12 meeting, the Kosciusko County Redevelopment Commission had two members take their oath of office, heard a report on the county’s TIF districts and were updated on the efforts of the Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation.
The commission did not meet last month. Taking care of a little general housekeeping, members Larry Teghtmeyer and Curt Hermann took their oath of office to get things started at Thursday’s meeting.
Following the oaths, Kosciusko County Auditor Michelle Puckett read through the county’s TIF report, which is to be submitted to the state by March 15. The report basically shows how much TIF funds have been spent and for what purpose.
Puckett reported that $132,591.83 was used from the Louis Dreyfus TIF fund to pave CR 700S. Additionally, two TIFs had cash balances. The Dreyfus TIF had a cash balance of $47,533.76 and the Van Buren TIF had approximately $83,000.
KEDCo President George Robertson reported on economic development in the county. He said there were two solid projects coming down the pipeline; one is an expansion, the other a new company moving into Kosciusko County. He also stated another company was negotiating a building to move into the county. Should negotiations land the company, it could add an additional 50 jobs in the area.
Robertson handed out copies of KEDCo’s February newsletter, which contained Department of Labor employment data from December 2014. The numbers show that Kosciusko County’s total workforce rose to more than 42,000 employees in the county, which is higher than the pre-recession number of employed people in December 2007.
“We hit the highest number of employed people in the county,” Robertson said. “What did surprise us was full workforce in the county, and that number increased by 2,200 people. A jump of 2,200 is pretty surprising.”
Robertson said he reviewed the records, and the county sat fairly consistently at a workforce of 40,000 throughout the early 2000s and even into the recession. The city of Warsaw grew 3.5 percent between 2000 and 2013. The only Hoosier city to boast better growth was Anderson.
“We have a new challenge, we have a challenge for the city in terms of how does it create more housing,” said Robertson. “Everybody wants to keep growing, but now that means we have to address the housing issue to do that.”
Kosciusko County is a net importer of workers from every surrounding county except Elkhart. Robertson stated there’s even a surprising number of workers commuting from Miami County to work in Kosciusko.
More houses could mean less commuters and more workers living close to their jobs. That means more money earned in Kosciusko would be spent in Kosciusko, which would lead to an influx of revenue for retail and service business and, ultimately, additional economic growth.
Robertson also proved an update on the Come Back Kosciusko campaign. Announced last year, the campaign is designed to woo those who’ve left the county to come back.
“We delayed the start after meeting with a number of HR directors who told us, ‘do not launch your campaign in the middle of winter,’” stated Robertson. “Having lived through this last winter, I can see the wisdom of their advice.”
Robertson said that addressing the housing issue in the county also plays a role in the Come Back Kosciusko campaign. “Our towns and city are going to have to react to the housing issue,” he said.