Fortner Explains IEDC’s Role

Jay County Development Corporation

Ray Cooney – Managing Editor

The Commercial Review

The Jay County Development Corporation board learned Tuesday about how the Indiana Economic Development Corporation can help attract business and what those organizations are looking for in host sites.

It also got an update on the status of the proposed Bluff Point Wind Farm.

Linda Fortner visited the board to discuss the role of IEDC, in which Jay County is part of the northeast region along with Blackford, Adams, Wells, Grant, Wabash, Huntington, Allen, Whitley, Noble, DeKalb, LaGrange and Steuben counties.

She noted that IEDC representatives visit each county and meet with local business leaders at least twice a year.

They also work with businesses interested in expanding and/or relocating to the area to help connect them with resources such as Purdue Technical Assistance Program, which offers 40 hours of free consulting services to manufacturers, Work One and utility providers.

“Part of our role is to go out and educate the businesses and people on what’s out there to help them,” Fortner said. “We want them to stay here.”

Bill Bradley, JCDC executive director, reviewed the top 10 factors in the site selection process based on a 2014 survey. They are:

10. Cost of energy
9. Unionization
8. State and local incentives
7. Tax rates
6. Available buildings
5. Communications technology
4. Construction/land costs
3. Labor costs
2. Highway accessibility
1. Availability of labor force

He noted the importance of the labor force and the efforts underway, such as the manufacturing academy at Jay County High School, to help improve in that area.

“We have made some good strides in this community and this region with our relationship with John Jay (Center for Learning),” he said. “I think we’re getting better with that. …

“We’re focusing more on two-year degree people, associate degree people. That’s the pipeline a lot of places are looking for. … That is probably one of the biggest deficiencies in Indiana …”

Local farmer Bob Lyons, who has been a proponent of the Bluff Point project, said he’s heard positive news recently.

He believes NextEra Energy is getting closer to securing an energy buyer and financing for the proposed $240 million project that would include 70 wind turbines in southern Jay and northern Randolph counties. It has been in the works since 2006.

Lyons told the board NextEra has erected a met tower, which measures wind speed, on his property in Pike Township.

In other business, the board:

•Learned from Jay County community developer Ami Huffman that there was a meeting Jan. 23 involving local police, health care organizations and service groups regarding how to best serve those in the county who are dealing with drug addictions.

Huffman also noted the state has made information available about the 2015 round of Stellar Communities grants. They are now capped at $1.5 million, with one grant for communities of more than 6,000 residents and one for those with fewer than 6,000 residents. An informational session is scheduled for Feb. 13, and the deadline for submissions is March 16.

•Heard Bradley say he and Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman are working with a firm on the possibility of upgrading the Sheller Globe South building on Bridge Street to make it more attractive to businesses. He also said he expects several announcements of business expansions in the coming months, including one that could clear the $20 million mark.

•Learned from Gyneth Augsburger of Jay County Visitor and Tourism Bureau that Fiber Fest is scheduled for March 13 and 14 at Jay County Fairgrounds. She also noted that the Indiana Run for the Fallen, which starts May 15 at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne and ends May 17 in Veterans Memorial Plaza in Indianapolis, will pass through Portland.