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February 20, 2013

Cass County joins regional economic development group

Officials say strength- in-numbers approach will allow for more grants

In an effort to secure grant funding for infrastructure projects throughout the region, Cass County has joined a six-county economic development group.

The Cass County Commissioners voted in favor of joining the North Central Indiana Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, or CEDS, at its meeting Tuesday night. The strategy was written by elected officials, members of community and economic development organizations and business leaders. The group also includes Fulton, Miami, Howard, Tipton and Clinton counties.

“A lot of your grants are going to be distributed by looking at regional aspects,” said Cass County Commissioner President Dave Arnold. “Counties looking for grants by themselves is getting to be a thing of the past.”

A document outlining the strategy available at the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs website describes preliminary work that was done in order to determine goals the six counties share. By uniting under the same goals, county officials say they stand a better chance to receive grants.

“If Cass is working on a project, the region can help with that project and benefit from it,” said Cass County Commissioner Ralph Anderson. “It might stop two counties from spending the same amount of money on the same project.”

According to the document, the group’s goals include developing workforces for modern and future jobs, improving downtown space in cities and towns and advancing infrastructure for businesses and transportation throughout the region.

Connie Neininger, president of the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization, said while the document lists specific projects, nothing is final and counties will have the opportunity to add to it as the initiative moves forward.

“This is not an end-all list,” she said. “It’s an ongoing process and as new projects come up, we’ll add to it. We’re reviewing the list on a regular basis.”

Neininger said all five of the other counties have expressed a desire to commit to the group. She said Miami County recently passed a resolution to join as well.

Neininger said the financial commitment required by the counties will be based on a per-capita figure. She said the estimated commitment from Cass currently stands at around 77 cents per capita, reaching a total of around $32,000.

Cass County Commissioner Jim Sailors expressed a desire to maintain this component in order to preserve fairness throughout the group.

“Tipton County would really suffer because they’re the lowest population of all of them,” Sailors said.

Neininger said the next step will be to create an organization along with a board to oversee the county’s involvement in the group. She said someone would have to be hired to lead the organization as well.

Neininger said she will also continue to keep communities informed on the initiative, having recently addressed a group in Walton, with plans to do the same in Galveston in March.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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