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County EDC to focus on continuing education

Aleasha Sandley asandley@reporter-times.com
February 24, 2011

MARTINSVILLE

The Morgan County Economic Development Corporation’s new focus on continuing education as a catalyst for economic growth could go a long way toward attracting companies, Inside INdiana Business host and creator Gerry Dick said Wednesday.

Dick, serving as the keynote speaker at MCEDC’s annual meeting, said job creation is dependent upon such measures and that he had spoken to countless business owners or potential business owners in Indiana who have said an educated workforce would be the most important driving force behind locating a company in the state.

“There’s no greater link to that job creation than education and workforce development,” Dick said. “There are nearly 1 million Hoosiers who lack workforce development skills to be employed in the 21st century.”

Dick said it would take collaboration among public, private and educational entities to allow Indiana to attract the types of jobs it is just beginning to bring in, including life sciences, wind and solar energy and logistics. He praised the state’s community college system, Ivy Tech, for being an integral part of training the state’s workforce.

MCEDC Board of Directors President Dan Moore said the organization had decided to rebrand itself and focus on education during its strategic planning last spring.

“We came to the conclusion that really Morgan County was perceived incorrectly, both internally and externally,” Moore said. “We need to rebrand ourselves and rechart our legacy.”

One of the weaknesses the organization’s leaders found was that it did not foster an environment of continual learning, Moore said. An environment of continual learning would result in better jobs, a more competent workforce and higher incomes.

“We need, as a county, to change our culture,” he said. “We want to make education available to all our citizens beyond the traditional education. It has everything to do with education.”

Dick said that in Morgan County, as in much of Indiana, employers are facing challenges in finding an educated workforce, but that the state does have a good work ethic and businesses generally feel that Indiana is a business-friendly state. Morgan County, he said, could attract companies by being a “pretty place to live” in a rural setting that is close to the major city of Indianapolis and the university environment of Bloomington.

The business environment in Indiana is improving, Dick said, although unemployment still is high and state revenue still is down, Hoosier attitudes are improving since the recession.

Other factors that will affect the state’s business climate include last year’s elections, local government reform and the state budget.

“That affects all of us, and there will be a lot of questions on where cuts are made,” Dick said.

The business entrepreneur said opinions on the right-to-work legislation in the General Assembly differ regarding its potential impact on business. He said some argue establishing Indiana as a right-to-work state would lower wages, while others say they would raise them.

“It depends on who you talk to,” he said. “Generally speaking, economic development folks think it would be a big win. They will flat-out tell you Indiana has lost out on many projects because it is not a right-to-work state.”

Copyright: Reporter-Times.com/MD-Times.com 2011

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