KEDCO Presents 3 Initiatives To Commissioners For Funding

Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation CEO Alan Tio presented three initiatives to the County Commissioners for funding on Tuesday.

Totaling $140,000, the funding for the entrepreneurship, housing and talent initiatives will come from the Economic Development Projects account in the County Economic Development Income Tax budget.

“About a month ago, I mentioned I would be back with three projects we’re working on to ask for funding from the Economic Development Projects budget,” Tio said.

On the entrepreneurship initiative, he said KEDCO has launched a medical technology accelerator studio with a group called NEXT Studio out of Indianapolis.

“We’re seeing great engagement so far. Companies, individuals or small businesses are going through this with us,” he said. “So the supplemental request will really help us be able to offer this on a rolling basis, not just one at a time.”

After the current group finishes in October, Tio said he’ll roll right into working with the next group. The supplemental funding is being matched by foundations and that will help sustain the program for the rest of the year on a rolling basis.

Tio said he was very happy with how that program is going and there’s a lot of interest being shown in it.

In the initial program, four businesses were involved, with two in the wings and three or four lined up for the next group, he said.

On the housing initiative, Tio said they’d like to partner with an engineering firm and begin to study and develop a recommendation on “how we can plan for water and sewer and where those resources might be needed to support more housing development.”

He said water or sewer or both help open up areas for development. The idea would be to come up with a study or a framework that needs to be in place to evaluate areas for residential development on an ongoing basis.

The talent initiative, Tio said, is related to putting together and being able to offer a recruitment program for remote workers.

“We have been working over the last few years around talent recruitment. What we’ve tried to do, so far, is focus on finding individuals and matching them up to existing jobs we have in our community. It creates more steps in the process so we’re thinking about this group we can partner with out of Indianapolis called Make My Move, and what they do is really build a network of remote workers – people that already have jobs and can relocate,” Tio said.

He said the time is right to tell the county’s story and build a network within Make My Move’s of people who are interested in relocating to Kosciusko County.

“The goal being then people want to be a part of our existing industry base, part of our communities. They are getting jobs, but ideally, what we offer as a community helps them,” Tio said, such as education, careers and more.

He said there already are 15 other Indiana communities working with Make My Move.

Commissioner Cary Groninger asked County Administrator Marsha McSherry if the requested funds would come out of the Commissioners’ Special Projects fund for KEDCO and how much would be left. McSherry said yes and approximately $60,000 would be left in the fund. Commissioner Brad Jackson said the money has already been budgeted. The County Council also has to approve the expenditures.

Commissioner Bob Conley asked if there was any “matrix there that you can define  definitely other than just they’re out there getting this done?”

Tio said with Make My Move they can track their success and compare it to other communities. As they attract people to the community, he said they can track their salaries, income taxes and property taxes generated.

He referenced Benton Harbor, Mich., as a community that’s been successful with this.

Jackson said he would abstain from voting on the funding.

Conley said his big concern was, “I think we need to concentrate on industry and business and economic development as opposed to ‘blue sky’ or ‘maybe this might happen.’ I’d like to have more of a hand on something we have more of a greater percentage of success with rather than ‘these people are trying it and these people are trying it.’”

Since the money already was budgeted, Conley made a motion to approve the funding.

Groninger said Tio could come back in a year and show the Commissioners the metrics of how it’s impacted the county. He agreed there needed to be accountability to the taxpayers that the county was getting a return on its investments.

Conley said his other concern was that Make My Move was an Indianapolis-based company. Tio said the company understands the Kosciusko County community and has visited.

Conley then expressed a concern of a group of guys getting together to concoct ideas of how to get “all this money floating out there” from local communities.

“That type of thing is a concern to me,” he said. “And I see more and more of that coming monthly here to the Commissioners where we’ve got somebody somewhere else that we’re putting our trust in to do something and then we have no follow-up. We don’t know whether that tax money is being spent appropriately or not.”

Groninger seconded Conley’s motion and it was approved 2-0, with Jackson abstaining.