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Regional growth discussed at meeting

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Accelerate West Central Indiana Development Group President Mike Heaton recently spoke to area representatives about economic development in the region.

According to Heaton, the region consists of Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.

Heaton said economic development encompasses a wide variety of functions to attain its goal such as developing local capacities like water and developing industrial properties.

He noted business retention was an important factor.

"Statistically, 70 percent of new jobs created in a county or location are created by an existing business," Heaton said.

Heaton said bringing new businesses to an area is also an important aspect of economic development.

"Developing new businesses (is important), providing the expertise and that understanding to help those individuals who want to start and foster new businesses in the communities from the ground up," Heaton said. "From how to get incorporated to developing a business plan."

Heaton said marketing and business attraction is also important for a region's development, which is mainly what the Accelerate West Central Indiana Group is engaged in.

"Two years ago, we decided to get six counties together and sit down and talk to see if we wanted to pool resources together to market this amazing resource in the west central part of the state," Heaton said.

He said the region has a lot of positives like access to rail and interstates, as well as higher education institutions. Clay County also benefits from its placement in relation to the region as a whole.

"We thought it would be wise to see what we could do to promote this amazing resource that nobody knows about around the country," Heaton said. "It's really best to take a look at a regional perspective, because that's how your workforce comes through. Your workforce isn't just in Clay County, but if you look at the commuting patterns for the workforce that moves in and out in Clay County they're coming from all over.

"When you look at business attraction, those site selection consultants want to look at a region and then they drill down to counties and communities."

Heaton said regionally, economic development is a very competitive business.

"There's only so many projects out there, and there are approximately 10,000 economic development organizations across the country," Heaton said. "So we have to do whatever we can to be competitive in that area, and working together as a region, breaking down all the boundaries is the best way that we can collaborate and promote this specific region.

"Because if Clay County has a business that expands ... the whole region has success."

Heaton said the group has a $29,000 budget, and its main objective is to go out and talk about how great the region is. One way it does this is to take trips to various cities and countries including Indianapolis, Chicago and Japan to represent the region and learn more about businesses that could potentially utilize the region.

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