WARSAW – Convene. Build. Show.
Those three actions convey the mission behind Alan Tio’s vision for KEDCo, Kosciusko County’s economic development department, which has been revitalized since his arrival.
Tio became the chief executive officer of KEDCo in 2018 following the retirement of George Robertson, who led the office for years and was more of a one-man operation.
Tio has become a familiar name in many towns in Kosciusko County in the past year as he made pitches for funding – or sometimes increased fundings – from numerous towns to help support KEDCo initiatives.
With more money, the office has expanded its staff to include seven part-time employees who work with Tio.
As the mission statement suggests, Tio has worked to bring together various entities to coordinate numerous economic development efforts and has begun establishing a series of initiatives, some of which are focused on strengthening the county’s ag industry and the orthopedic sector while also working with some towns on other projects.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Tio provided an update on his efforts to Warsaw City Council.
Last year, KEDCo helped facilitate the sale of Stonehenge Golf Course. It is part of an economic development project for the town of Winona Lake.
In 2019, KEDCo launched an agri-business roundtable; established an entrepreneurial roundtable and a medical device roundtable to bring people together from the orthopedic industry; and became the first county in the state to join AgriNovus Indiana.
Last week, KEDCo announced the establishment of a talent initiative to provide a “single point contact” to help companies attract workers.
KEDCo has also collaborated with Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams, Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce to develop a promotional website called Clearly Kosciusko that will allow the county to tell its story more broadly, Tio said.
KEDCo is also advocating for expanded rural broadband, saying it is a “must-have” for the community.
“We’re seeing some traction from our efforts,” Tio told city council Tuesday night.
“Our objective here is to build a 24-month pipeline of projects that are both community development projects as well as businesses starting or expanding. We’re well on our way,” he said.
“We appreciate the partnership with the council and the city as we undertake this new approach,” Tio said.
Tio estimates that about half of the communities he approached in the past year agreed to support the economic development office.
North Webster, which relies heavily on the lakes and tourism, declined to provide financial support, but Tio is not deterred.
Tio said after his presentation that he understands and respects the preferences each town has, but that doesn’t mean he’ll ignore towns that have not opted in financially
“We want to really respond to whatever the opportunities are for each community depending on their assets,” Tio said. “We’re starting some discussions in North Webster about Main Street development, promoting community activities. I’m not sure where that will take us yet,” he said.
In other matters, council took the first of two steps to re-establish two rates, the cumulative capital development fund and the fire equipment fund. Both proposals won full support from the five council members at the meeting. A final vote is expected at the next council meeting on March 2.
Council also took the first of two steps to approve an additional appropriation request of $300,000 that will go toward the city’s contribution in supporting the future senior housing project along East Market Street.
Construction on the roughly $9 million, 72-unit project is expected to start this year, according to Plan Director Jeremy Skinner.