Henry the schnauzer and Topper the cat might not understand nuances of economic development. However, their owner, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, is grateful that his pets’ daily food provider, Blue Buffalo, is expanding its Richmond operations. Holcomb visited Richmond on Thursday to celebrate Blue Buffalo’s plans to create 50 to 60 new jobs by the end of 2024. The pet food maker will spend $200 million to build and equip a 169,000-square-foot addition, which increases its Midwest Industrial Park building by more than 40 percent.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb remains hopeful that proposed investments in public health, housing, early childhood education, school safety and first responders will move forward during the final weeks of the legislative session. During an exclusive interview with Western Wayne News during his March 23 visit to Blue Buffalo, Holcomb said it’s an “interesting” time, comparing it to the third quarter of high school basketball state finals. He noted that state officials are currently focused on “investments in how we grow our economy, getting the necessary tools of the day, so the IEDC (Indiana Economic Development Corp.) can partner on more projects like this.”
Holcomb said lawmakers also are showing interest in investments in educational and workforce development and in public health, which he believes is central to economic development. “Companies like Blue Buffalo require not just a skilled-up workforce, but they require also a healthy workforce, and the state has a role in that,” Holcomb said.
Wayne County auction and antique enthusiasts and business owners are among those mourning the loss of Shane Hawkins. Hawkins, a 54-year-old Fountain City resident, was known around the county through his work and community involvement. The Northeastern graduate died March 13.
Mayor restructures positions, plans department of planning and zoning
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow plans to restructure positions to intensify the city’s focus on planning and zoning. Ian Vanness, the director of infrastructure and development, left the city, and that position will be eliminated. The city planner position will become director of planning, and a new zoning administrator position will be created.
State support helps downtown apartment project develop
As he did March 23 for the Blue Buffalo plant expansion groundbreaking, Gov. Eric Holcomb visits Richmond and Wayne County for celebrations. Whether ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting ceremonies, investments by new or expanding companies providing new jobs are celebrated. Thursday morning at Blue Buffalo and later during an Indiana Economic Development Corporation board meeting at Ivy Tech Community College Richmond, the city and state celebrated a successful first quarter of 2023 attracting new investments. Locally, investments totaling $378 million dollars have been announced in the Midwest Industrial Park by Viking Group, Liberation Laboratories and Blue Buffalo. Those would add more than 200 new jobs.
Jama Carpenter, American Legion, outgoing leader recognized
Showcasing their welcoming aloha spirit, Cambridge City Chamber of Commerce members again shared love for their community and its businesses and volunteers. Two awards were presented during a luau-themed annual dinner and networking night at The Archive, held March 16. Jama Carpenter won the Small Town Big Heart honor. “There is a lot to be said about the people who step up and do things they see need to be done without hesitation or recognition, and this year’s recipient did just that,” said Beth Leisure, who has served as the organization’s president for several years. “Jama stepped up and took on this past year’s Canal Days parade and brought back the Canal Days queen contest.
Nettle Creek schools are preparing for the end of this school year, according to reports at the March 15 board meeting. One of the annual year-end activities is a banquet for teachers and staff. It will be on Friday, June 2, at Willie and Red’s in Hagerstown. To help support it, the Nettle Creek Tiger Golf Challenge will be on May 21 at Hartley Hills Golf Club. Registration is open and limited to 16 teams. The online registration site can be found at nettle-creek-schools-tiger-challenge.perfectgolfevent.com/ and on the schools’ social media pages.
National headlines about recent bank woes can raise concerns about the safety and stability of the U.S. banking system. Local bank leaders emphasize that though it’s good for residents to be aware of how account insurance and limits work, holding funds at a bank is as safe as ever. When two banks, Silicon Valley Bank in California and Signature Bank in New York, failed within a few days of each other over the weekend of March 10-12, some wondered if the U.S. was headed toward another financial crisis. Federal authorities quickly took action to use insurance funds paid for by banks, not taxpayers, to reassure depositors that they would have full access to all of their money. They also wanted to prevent a “contagion” effect that might prompt banking customers elsewhere to withdraw funds out of fear.
During its March 15 meeting, Western Wayne Schools’ board celebrated its students’ performances at Business Professionals of America’s state competition. Twenty students qualified for national participation. The National Leadership Conference is April 26-29. Students will be raising money to pay for the trip with a variety of activities, according to Garrett Singer, the BPA lead adviser. The estimated cost is about $900 each.
Wayne County’s Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program team completed seven public meetings — attended by an estimated 300 people — and received about 1,000 online survey responses. Now, it’s time to analyze the input and begin identifying and prioritizing projects. As the HELP process proceeds, Denny Spinner, the executive director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, visited the March 15 meeting of Wayne County’s commissioners. Spinner talked about HELP as an extension of the Stellar Communities program, from which Richmond benefited, developed in 2010 following an economic downturn. Selected communities received funding help for transformational projects.
When the sales and marketing coordinator for the Wayne County Fairgrounds is hired, that person will have five priorities on their to-do list. Wayne County’s commissioners waited to post the approved and budgeted position until those priorities were identified. A committee involving the county, fairgrounds, 4-H and tourism representatives developed 11 action steps for the fairgrounds, including the five items for the new position. “The focus is on the facilities that we have, making the necessary repairs and upgrades to those to make that a marketable facility,” said Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, when presenting the action steps March 15 to Wayne County Council. In an effort to increase rentals, with an end goal of fairgrounds self-sustainability, a fairgrounds secretary position and part-time position are being converted into the sales and marketing coordinator position, with a budgeted salary of $47,840.
Council learns about new homes, boosts park committee
Enhancing Creitz Park, adding sidewalks, improving pedestrian safety and reducing blight are among residents’ goals for Cambridge City. About 40 gathered for brainstorming during the council’s March 13 meeting at Lincoln Middle/High School, discussing long-term improvements to pursue with Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program (HELP) funds. Cambridge City will spend nearly $119,000 on a selected project, and the investment might qualify for matching funds. County Commissioner Jeff Plasterer encouraged attendees to list issues or opportunities the town must address in the next five years; what two or three things they’re personally willing to work on to make the town better; and what one project could be tackled now to improve quality of life. Residents expressed concern about a lack of sidewalks east of Western Wayne Elementary that provide access to nearby stores, and speeding drivers in that area.
Centerville council learned about upcoming personnel changes at its police and fire departments, and supported the purchase of a new police vehicle. Police Chief Ed Buchholz announced at the council’s March 14 meeting that he has conditionally hired current reserve officer Mason Hale to fill a vacancy in the department, pending final testing. Hale could start in early April. Buchholz is pleased about the addition of Hale, a 2020 Centerville graduate who interned with CPD while in high school. In addition, Buchholz has recruited a new reserve officer, Clarissa Walls.
Schools recognized for Business Professionals of America skills
By Millie Emery and Bob Hansen
After years of state and national recognition, it comes as no surprise that Wayne County schools are again sending students to a national competition for their business skills. This year, 40 local students are headed to what’s called one of the happiest places on earth. Lincoln, Centerville, Richmond and Hagerstown each sent students last week to Business Professionals of America’s State Leadership Conference in Indianapolis, which offered learning and competition opportunities. BPA calls itself the nation’s leading career technical student organization. It has 45,000 members in more than 1,800 chapters.