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Eggs and economic development

October 10th, 2014

News Coverage:

Eggs and economic development

Officials speak about region at university breakfast

Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014 8:00 pm

BY MEGAN GREVE mgreve@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University Foundation kicked off its 2014-15 breakfast series with an economic development update for the region.

John Sampson, president of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, told those gathered at the breakfast that what they do “has a global impact.”

He talked about some of the strengths of the region, including the ability of its smaller entities to work together and its location.

Sampson also spoke about the importance of manufacturing in the region, pointing out how those industries have had an effect on jobs before, during and after the recession, specifically in the areas of vehicles, food production, defense, medical devices, insurance and logistics.

He said that Northeast Indiana is actually the lead region in manufacturing in the state and in the nation, with half the counties in the region in the top 5 percent in the country and the other five in the top 15 percent.

Sampson acknowledged that while the area’s manufacturing sector has been improving since the economic downturn, there was a still a gap between the employment numbers before and after the recession.

This, he said, was due to fewer people being employed in jobs with higher levels of technology that require more skills and knowledge, which leads to one of the major challenges of the region.

Sampson said that by 2025 60 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education, including either a certifiable skill or a two- or four-year degree.

Currently in the region only 37 percent of adults have that post-secondary education. He warned that if the region does not change that statistic in the future employers would take jobs elsewhere where the workforce has the necessary training.

This statistic is why the NIRP started The Big Goal project to bring the workforce to where it needs to be by 2025.

Two main areas were focusing on children before they enter school and right after they leave it.

Sampson said about 25 percent of students entering school need intensive intervention right away, adding that many of them would have a tougher time succeeding without that intervention.

He also said that while the region sees a 90 percent high school graduation rate, only 32 percent of those graduates go on to get a two- or four-year degree.

“We need to invest in those young people,” he said. “It’s not lack of capability.”

Also at the breakfast Mike Togorelc, plant manager at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, spoke about what the company does in Huntington. He showed the audience several of the parts the company makes or works on and spoke extensively about its newest addition, remanufactured brake shoes.

In addition Mark Wickersham, executive director of Huntington County Economic Development, gave an update on the county. He said that so far in 2014 there were 11 new projects that have brought in more than $30 million in investments, adding more than 240 jobs and retaining more than 1,600.

In the seven years since he started at HCED there have been more than 70 projects, Wickersham said.

The breakfast is the first of eight offered by the Foundation throughout the year. The next one will take place Nov. 12 at 7:45 a.m. and will honor veterans.