Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune
---- — About a dozen attendees had to guess the answers to four tough questions during “Transforming Your Local and Regional Economy,” an April 3 workshop at the Batesville library presented by Lionel “Bo” Beaulieu, Purdue Center for Regional Development director, and Dr. Michael Wilcox, Purdue Extension Economic and Community Development assistant program leader, with assistance from the Southeast Indiana Small Business Development Center.
After guesses were tossed out, Beaulieu revealed the answers. Which industry in this county employed the most people in 2012? For Franklin County, the top two employment categories were government (including teachers), 1,051; and retail, 861. The top Ripley County employers were manufacturers, 2,198; and health companies, 1,730.
Which industry paid the highest average wages? In Franklin County it was manufacturing at $58,516; in Ripley County, it was management at $101,437.
Which sector created the most jobs between 2005-12? In Franklin County, 88 real estate and rental/leasing workers were added. In Ripley County, 261 professional, scientific and technical services jobs were created.
Which sector lost the most jobs during that same five-year period? In Franklin County, 391 administration and support, waste management and remediation services positions were cut. In Ripley County, 703 manufacturing jobs were gone.
The experts defined five stages of industry establishments: stage 0, one employee; stage 1, two to nine employees; stage 2, 10 to 99; stage 3, 100-499; and stage 4, 500 and over.
In 2011 Ripley County had 2,517 establishments racking up $1.8 billion in sales: stage 0, 1,021 one-person firms with $70 million; stage 1, 1,289 firms employing 3,835, $398 million; stage 2, 186 firms employing 4,412, $408 million; stage 3, 19 firms employing 3,385, $373 million; and stage 4, two firms employing 2,500, $565 million.
Ripley County’s top establishments that year at each level: stage 0, business services, $5.4 million; stage 1, pharmaceuticals, nine employees, $2.6 million; stage 2, distribution and electric power, 64 employees, $55.2 million; stage 3, hospital furniture, except beds, 300 employees, $67.8 million; stage 4, burial caskets, 1,300 employees, $293.9 million.
In 2011 Franklin County had 1,949 local establishments showing $945 million in sales: stage 0, 783 owners, $54 million; stage 1, 1,050 firms employing 3,001, $234 million; stage 2, 107 firms employing 2,574, $192 million; stage 3, nine firms employing 1,569, $465 million; stage 4, none.
Franklin County’s top sales establishments by level were stage 0, single-family home construction, $1.5 million; stage 1, fertilizer, seven employees, $7.2 million; stage 2, national commercial banks, 50 employees, $10.4 million; and stage 3, life insurance carriers, 275 employees, $317.9 million.
Beaulieu pointed out that the $70 million in sales by Ripley County self-employed “is something we shouldn’t sneeze at.”
Gary Norman, Ripley County Economic Development Corp. executive director, said he tries to attract firms of all sizes, especially stage 2 firms, instead of just large companies. This summer he will helicopter interested Cincinnati site consultants and business leaders to view county assets.
The presenters explained the CARE model: creation (encourage formation of new businesses); attraction (recruit industries or businesses); retention; and expansion (push for growth). He wondered, “Are you focusing on these different economic development approaches in a balanced manner?”
Norman and Cheryll Obendorf, Economic Opportunities Through Education by 2015 (EcO15) Ripley County coordinator both reported they are working on business retention. Norman also spends time on planning and zoning issues, such as mixed use properties.
She also is focused on career development, “creating career pathways for students. We’ve supported the Maverick Challenge,” a student entrepreneurship contest. In addition to Oldenburg Academy, “we would like to see more schools involved with that … it’s a great program,” Obendorf maintained. Batesville community development director Sarah Lamping added, “It’s quite a commitment.”
Beaulieu said another asset that can help with retention and expansion is a technical assistance program. Sometimes offered at tech parks, the course can provide up to 40 hours of free training in lean manufacturing and other topics.
David Osborne, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service Ripley County director, said, “If someone would ask me what our focus is, I’d say retention and expansion, and creation to some extent.”
Melissa Tucker, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said, “We’re doing smaller programs” to support local workers, from starting Batesville Young Professionals to boosting Ivy Tech Community College’s partnership with Batesville High School so that students can earn associate degrees without paying tuition.
Wilcox said he’s been impressed with the efforts of the Food and Growers Association of Laughery Valley and Environs, “a classic example of a grassroots organization that has brought producers together and they’ve been offering professional development and networking opportunities.”
He prodded attendees, “Do you check in on businesses and see how they’re doing?” Wilcox questioned, “Do you understand their growth aspirations?” Some business owners want to grow, others don’t. Some want to hand off the firm to the next generation, while others are getting their ventures ready to sell.
Looking at the four-county region (Franklin, Ripley, Decatur and Dearborn) in 2012, exports – selling goods and services to foreign and external domestic regions – stood at $6.7 billion, while imports totalled $7.6 billion. That means the regional trade balance (exports vs. imports) was negative. Ripley and Decatur had positive results, while Franklin and Dearborn had negative trade balances.
The director asked, “Which products being imported might we be able to produce?” He gave the example of a Dearborn County craft brewery that had been buying bottles from Ohio, but later purchased them from a Lawrenceburg firm.
Company attraction activities should include potential Honda suppliers, he suggested. Wilcox has seen local governments give tax abatements to long-established companies. He believed other types of incentives are needed to entice all sorts of businesses to relocate in this area, not just big businesses.
Key industry clusters in the four-county area between 2007-12 were glass and ceramics, forest and wood production, a manufacturing supercluster (4,657 employed), advanced materials, transportation and logistics, and ag and food processing.
Wilcox reported, “Bo’s been preaching for a long time you need to base your strategic planning on the assets that you have,” not the needs. One thing the men were struck by as they drove to a similar presentation in Brookville that morning was Franklin County’s natural beauty. “The thought came to mind I need to bring my family here for the weekend. The environment matters.”
The program leader gave hope to attendees wishing for downtown revivals. The Saratoga Springs, N.Y., native said that downtown “has killed two malls” due to its walkability, good product mix and regular events. In Indiana, Valparaiso is a classic example, according to Wilcox. Leaders tore down old buildings to create a greenspace and amphitheater. Now residents flock to artisans’ and farmers’ markets and congregate at “great restaurants.”
A more recent example is the rehabbing of Fountain Square just south of downtown Indianapolis. “Having leadership and folks who really cared about it and people seeking out information and people there to coach them through” made the upgrade successful.
Beaulieu concluded, “You’re really shortchanging yourself if you can’t think beyond the boundaries of your county.” He said attendees should consider focusing on first and second stage enterprises, not just the mega-employers.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
First in a two-part series • Part 2: The need to nurture entrepreneurs will be published Friday, April 11.