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.”