by Brent Swan
On April 11, area business leaders and government officials met at the Charley Creek Inn’s Big Four Ballroom as the Economic Development Group (EDG) of Wabash County hosted its annual meeting.
EDG President and CEO Bill Konyha gave his opening remarks prior to introducing the keynote speaker, Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.
“Our personal incomes in the region and in Wabash County have fallen steadily since about 1980,” Konyha said. “In the past three years, according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the per capita in the region grew slightly more than nine percent. The per capita income in Wabash County has risen 14.3 percent. We are doing the right things.”
According to Konyha, Wabash County was also able to improve its educational attainment level by 24.3 percent – a shift he believes will continue to attract jobs to the county.
“We’ve suffered through some industrial disinvestment that we all know about,” Konyha said of the jobs lost during the recession. “Since Aug. 1, 2006, EDG has assisted the private sector create 1,064 jobs, adding more than $33 million in new payroll. We are moving towards a 21st century, knowledge based economic model and further from the old smokestack model of the past.”
While addressing the crowd of over 100 guests, Lt. Gov. Ellspermann spoke of her involvement in programs such as the Office of Community Affairs (OCRA) and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA).
“The IHCDA provides funding for new construction and rehabilitation housing for low-income individuals as well as housing activities for homebuyer assistance,” Lt. Gov. Ellspermann said of the program. “We leverage government and private funds to invest in financially sound, well-designed projects that will benefit communities for many years to come.”
Lt. Gov. Ellspermann also updated guests about some of the legislation Gov. Pence is attempting to get through this legislative session, including the creation of a Secretary of Commerce position, who will be responsible for taking a proactive approach to attracting jobs and businesses to the State of Indiana.
“The state budget is moving through,” Lt. Gov. Ellspermann said. “Our proposed tax cuts in the state budget lets people know that we are fiscally strong and that we will continue to run our state in a lean but efficient manner. We are intent on maintaining our AAA credit rating, which means so much to the state, and continue to lower our corporate taxes.
“Last week was national community development week,” Lt. Gov. Ellspermann continued. “There are a few communities across the state that you can really point to that have had lots of economic success and Wabash County is certainly towards the top of that list. Because of your broader vision of economic development, you have managed to be as successful as you have been.”