Wayne County has been shortlisted for a potential $255 million investment that could add more than 300 jobs.

Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County recently sent Sarah Mitchell, economic development manager, as its representative to Atlanta. There, she met company officials, learned more about their project, and presented the potential site and the community.

Wayne County was one of nine Indiana communities invited to make a 20-minute presentation.

The company, which is a commercial and industrial machinery manufacturer, is being called Project Wayfarer to protect its identity. It is interested in 160 acres in Midwest Industrial Park’s Phase III.

Also in November, EDC staff completed a request for information for one new attraction project, Project Southbound.

Southbound is a food producer that could add 175 jobs and invest $59 million plus real estate expenses for 31 acres in Midwest Industrial Park’s Phase I south of the rail.

EDC staff say several retention/expansion projects also are in the pipeline.

Office lease

Meanwhile, EDC has been working with a new tenant for 1400 Industries Road, previously occupied by Wolverine Worldwide, formerly known as Stride Rite Corp. The footwear company’s customer service employees are now working fully remotely. Wolverine vacated the property seven months before its lease expires next June.

The board agreed to let EDC President Valerie Shaffer negotiate a sublease with Vandor so the funeral products maker can gain access to the 35,000-square-foot office while a new lease is finalized and the prior tenant’s account is settled.

Vandor, headquartered in Richmond, has operations throughout the country. Its local office staff are currently spread throughout its three Richmond locations.

In other business

  • EDC staff are working with a developer interested in renovating two historical properties in downtown Richmond to add additional market-rate apartment units, complementing plans for apartments proposed at the former Elder-Beerman store site.
  • Shaffer and Mitchell have begun meeting with towns across the county to discuss their blight elimination needs and discuss potential program parameters.
  • Local employers have expressed overwhelming interest in registering their employees for an online platform called TOOTRiS. Employees can search for child care and pay providers through the program, and employers can manage child care subsidies and qualifying tax credits. EDC received a grant from Duke Energy and contributed additional funds toward defraying the costs for employers to register. Additional local employers can sign up for the program, but they must pay the full fee to participate.
  • Area fire departments participated in a controlled burn at Gaar Jackson Road as part of expansion of the Midwest Industrial Park.
  • Make My Move: Seven remote workers have moved to Richmond through the incentive program, five movers have accepted the offer, and three offers are pending.
  • The board approved 2024 officers: Chair Pete Zaleski, Vice Chair Jim Tanner, Treasurer Jim King, Secretary Kyle Turner.
  • The next meeting is 4 p.m. Jan. 8. EDC generally meets at 4 p.m. the first Monday monthly at its office, 900 N. E. St., Richmond.
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A version of this article appeared in the December 13 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.