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2017 highlights shared at Economic Development meeting

By KEVIN GREEN - kgreen@thecouriertimes.com

Though some of what took place wasn’t accompanied by a lot of fireworks or fanfare, 2017 was a good year for Henry County from an economic development perspective.

That was essentially the message New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy shared with the organization’s board of directors at its monthly meeting Thursday morning in the conference room of Henry County REMC’s headquarters at 3400 S. Ind. 3.

“In 2017, our team, in collaboration with local government and other partners, supported six projects that resulted in announced investment of $52,090,000 and 225 jobs,” Murphy said. “A breakdown of those projects includes three agri-business projects, one healthcare project, one renewable energy project ... and a manufacturing project here in Henry County.”

He went on to say the EDC helped facilitate a $200,000 extension to Brooks Drive in the industrial park just south of New Castle thanks to grant money secured from the Infrastructure Development Grant Fund administered by the Indiana Economic Development Council and additional funds provided by the county council from local food and beverage tax monies.

Another noteworthy accomplishment from the past year, Murphy said, was achieving Certified Work Ready Status through ACT.

He shared information with those present from ACT about what the community needs to do in order to maintain that certification, and a strategy for reaching out to Henry County businesses and encourage them to use the Work ready job profile component as part of their hiring process, something he noted Draper in Spiceland has been doing with great success for the past few years.

“It is an allowable screening criteria in the job search process,” he said.

There also were a few positive developments within the EDC office. Murphy earned Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) Designation from the International Economic Development Council; the EDC loaned $65,700 to four businesses in Henry County through its Enterprise Loan Fund; and Kelli Wasson, the EDC office manager and Murphy’s administrative assistant, celebrated 10 years of service and attended a basic economic development course.

In other news from Thursday’s meeting, board president Jon Madison reported an audit of the organization’s financial records for 2015 and 2016 was recently completed by an independent third-party accounting firm.

“I looked at it and didn’t see anything that caused concern,” he said.

The majority of the meeting was spent watching a 37-minute video titled “DNA Is Not Destiny.” It’s focus was on the role nutrition and environment can have an early childhood development.

The video was made available by the HOPE Initiative, which is spearheading an community-wide effort to educate Henry County residents about the importance of nutrition and a positive, nurturing environment during pregnancy and the first several years of a child’s life.

“Research now has biological proof that how our little ones are treated, nurtured, actually does matter, actually impacts the kind of adult they will likely become,” states a release provided by HOPE Initiative.

HOPE Initiative co-founder Cathy Hamilton introduced Niki Fitzgerald, coordinator of the Henry County Early Life Coalition. It is hoped she can convince local businesses, organizations and individuals to get involved in the early childhood effort.

“Niki has already been busy raising awareness about the importance of early brain development in relation to the economic future of Henry County,” the HOPE release states. “Niki will be guiding the development of county-wide vision, goals, objectives, and strategies that will define the Henry County learning effort.”

To learn more about the Henry County Early Learning Coalition, contact Fitzgerald at nfitzgerald@huffermcc.org.

The EDC board meets at 7:30 a.m. the second Thursday of each month at Henry County REMC. The meetings are open to all interested persons.