County OKs seeking Workforce Development Grant

By Joseph Slacian

Wabash County Commissioners gave the green light for a local coalition to seek a $250,000 Workforce Development Grant.

The county will join forces with Huntington County to seek one of eight grants from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

The permission had to come from Commissioners because grant recipients must provide a 20 percent match, of which at least 25 percent must be in funding, according to Keith Gillenwater, President and CEO of the Economic Development Group of Wabash County.

Because the grant would be a joint effort between Wabash and Huntington counties, Wabash’s contribution would be $10, 000 in funding, which Commissioners approved.

The program began shortly after Bill Konyha, former EDG President and CEO, took over as OCRA executive director in January.

“What they’re doing is putting some Community Development Block Grant money … to focus on economic development,” Gillenwater explained.  “The biggest need in economic development today is training the workforce you need to have to be able to work at the jobs. It doesn’t do you any good to bring jobs if you don’t have anyone that can work there.”

Wabash County chose to partner with Huntington County, Gillenwater continued, “because obviously we share a lot of things in common with them.”

A proposal for the grant is due Aug. 28, with the actual application due later in October.

The grant, Gillenwater said in answer to a question from Commissioner Scott Givens, would be for adult education.

“You have to be 18 and older (to take advantage of the training),” Gillenwater continued. “Ivy Tech is a partner. Heartland Career Center and Mark Hobbs have been part of the discussion as well.

“Seventy-five percent of the match can be in-kind donations, so we’re really trying to push that if we can. If Heartland can donate use of the facility in the evening, or something like that.”

Local industry also is being contacted, Gillenwater said, in an effort to “maximize this $250,000.”

“We’re going to ask industry to pay a piece of this as well, so that we can take that $250,000 and turn it into $750,000,” he continued. “It’s really a unique partnership.”

Commissioner Chair Brian Haupert said this is an opportunity to training workers to meet future needs.

“That’s what it’s all about.”

Posted on 2015 Aug 25