Wayne County has four projects on a list of 20 being considered for the region’s application for state funding. 

Valerie Shaffer, president of Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, said 24 projects across Wayne County were suggested for east central Indiana’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) 2.0 application. 

Shaffer and Acacia St. John, Forward Wayne County’s program director, recruited elected officials to help score Wayne County’s Top 10 projects to submit for regional consideration. 

Regional scorers reviewed 10 ideas from each county and some multicounty projects to develop the list of 20 for further consideration.

St. John and Shaffer now will follow up with local project submitters to make sure they’re still committed to those efforts and determine what private and public contributions might be found to meet the state’s match requirements before the list is narrowed.   

After reviewing the submissions, Indiana EDC officials can select some projects that didn’t make the final regional list for partnerships.

In other business

  • Shaffer and Sarah Mitchell, EDC economic development manager, met with leaders of seven Wayne County communities to determine their interest in a new county blight elimination program. 
    Milton officials said they had no buildings to recommend, but the other six communities suggested a total of 26 homes for the program. 
    Mitchell and Shaffer will meet with county officials Steve Higinbotham and Jeff Plasterer to prepare program guidelines and share those with the communities. 
  • In December, staff gathered information for two prospects provided by Indiana’s EDC. Project Mediterranean, which specializes in renewable energy, is considering a $25 million investment in Midwest Industrial Park that could add 20-plus jobs. Project Evergreen, an international metal processing company, could invest $2-$4 million at 910 Progress Drive. 
  • Peter Zaleski started his new role as EDC board chair, replacing Sherrilyn Johnson. Jim Tanner is vice chair; Jim King, treasurer; Kyle Turner, secretary. Anne Taylor, newly elected to Richmond Common Council, will be council’s liaison to EDC, while Gary Saunders is county council’s liaison. Brad Dwenger represents county commissioners. Ron Oler, Richmond’s new mayor, also attended. 
  • The board noted EDC was under budget for the year, as usual, and voted to return $60,631.45 to the Consolidated EDIT Fund.  
  • Eight remote workers have come to Wayne County through Make My Move incentives, and one family is arriving next month. Five more offers have been made. 
  • EDC staff are meeting with county and community leaders about renewing their contracts to provide economic development services. Currently, Wayne County, Richmond, Cambridge City, Centerville, Hagerstown, Economy, Milton and East Germantown participate. 
  • Job seekers and employers are beginning to connect through the new Wayne County Job Finder at homeinwayne.com/work/.  
  • Local fire departments have completed two controlled burns of homes for Midwest Industrial Park’s expansion and the third at 1465 Round Barn Road could be completed this week, followed by final grading for all properties. 
  • EDC’s next board meeting is 4 p.m. Feb. 5 at 900 N. E St., Richmond. 

EDC president wins Duke Energy honor 

Valerie Shaffer, third from right, is congratulated by EDC co-worker Sarah Mitchell, second from left, and Duke Energy employees Haley Tomlinson, left, and Erin Schneider, right. Supplied

Valerie Shaffer, president of Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, received Duke Energy’s economic development Partner Achievement Award in December.

Stan Pinegar, president of Duke Energy Indiana, said Shaffer is “an inspiration” and was chosen because of her ability to exemplify leadership and devotion to a community and region’s growth. 

Pinegar noted EDC’s tremendous 2023 in landing new employers and expansions for significant job growth and investments. He said Shaffer also effectively leveraged resources, including several Duke Energy programs. Those included partnership grants to bolster marketing, site readiness and intense competition to secure Duke’s Childcare Innovation Grant. 

“Her work will undoubtedly inspire creative solutions that will be replicated in other communities,” Pinegar wrote. 

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A version of this article appeared in the January 17 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

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