EDC has changed Noble County ‘for the better,’ organization members say

February 1st, 2016

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EDC has changed Noble County 'for the better,' organization members say

Barry Rochford | News-Sun

KENDALLVILLE — The Noble County Economic Development Corp.’s achievements over the past 10 years are largely the result of people from different communities coming together to foster and promote growth, those involved with the organization say.
As it moves into its second decade, it’s working to build on that collaboration by leading efforts to further develop the skills of workers and connecting students to career opportunities at local businesses, in particular manufacturers, which are expected to lead to more successes.

“The climate in Noble County has changed for the better, and you are all an important part of that,” Rick Sherck, executive director of the Noble County EDC, told those gathered at the organization’s annual meeting Thursday at the Kendallville Public Library.

Bob Marshall, executive vice president at Campbell & Fetter Bank in Kendallville and president of the EDC’s board of directors, said 10 years ago, the county was playing catch-up when it came to economic development.

“We were one of the last counties to put together an EDC,” he said.

In the years following the formation of the EDC in 2006, the Great Recession hit. But with local leaders united, Noble County persevered and weathered the storm.

Manufacturing helped lead the nation out of the recession. With 58 percent of its wages tied to manufacturing, according to 2013 data, Noble County found itself in a much different position during the economic rebound. Instead of laying off employees, many companies were struggling to find qualified workers.

“Industry after industry, employer after employer, was running into this vacancy issue,” Marshall said.

During the past two years, the Noble County EDC, with assistance from organizations including Northeast Indiana Works, Freedom Academy and Impact Institute, has focused on establishing programs to help existing workers expand their skills. Sherck said about 70 employees in Noble County have received computer numerical control, welding and maintenance technician training.

Just this month, the EDC, Northeast Indiana Works, which operates area WorkOne career centers, and Freedom Academy launched the Manufacturing Entry Training Academy, a program that offers participants the chance to learn basic manufacturing skills and possibly move into a career that provides more opportunities.

Sherck said 10 people are receiving training through the free, 42-hour META program, and 17 Noble County manufacturers have given their input on its classes and have expressed an interest in considering participants for entry-level job openings.

“So we’re trying to build the workforce,” Sherck said of the slate of job training offerings, which together are branded under the name “Noble Up!”

Local workforce development efforts also include connecting students with manufacturers, and the EDC will hold a job fair for high school juniors and seniors April 14.

If the Noble County EDC can continue to meet local businesses’ needs and add to workers’ skills, that will pay off during the organization’s next 10 years, Sherck said.

“We’re changing the environment of Noble County,” he said.