by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune
---- — Between big manufacturers and small-time service businesses, Logansport and Cass County business owners added a total of 242 jobs and invested more than $25 million in 2013.
Leaders of the City of Logansport Economic Development organization on Tuesday announced those totals at the organization’s annual dinner. They emphasized the organization wasn’t taking credit for all the new jobs or investment, but recognized area businesses for it.
“No one group, no one person should try to take credit for the successes of many,” said outgoing CLEDO board chairman Jim Hayden.
New businesses announced and existing businesses undergoing expansion committed to investing $25,137,500 and establishing the equivalent of 242 full-time positions, counting jobs that have been announced but not filled yet. Retained jobs, however, were not counted.
Helping make up the total were 25 new jobs at Carter Fuel Systems, 30 new jobs at a business going into the former Modine manufacturing facility, 48 new jobs announced for Scott’s Square truck stop in Clymers and 25 new jobs at an undisclosed establishment moving in at Cass City Center.
A few other jobs included in the total are actually multiple part-time positions because of the way new small businesses report positions to the Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce, according to chamber administrative assistant Teresa Zimmerman.
The announcement came as some were anticipating an answer to whether CLEDO had met its goal announced earlier this year: 50 new jobs and $250,000 in new tax revenue in 2013.
That goal, issued by then-director Connie Neininger a year ago this month, was followed by Neininger’s resignation to take a state position in May and several months of interim leadership under current director John Hipskind. Hipskind’s position was made permanent in November at the same time Cass County ended its membership in CLEDO.
Altogether, the expansions and new businesses recognized for 2013 are expected to net more than $700,000 in annual tax revenue for the city and county, Hayden said.
Businesses in the confines of the city of Logansport were responsible for 165 of the 242 new positions, according to the city’s community development director, Chris Armstrong. Investment within city limits totaled $12,987,500 out of the more than $25 million in investments recognized Tuesday.
But after striking notes of celebration, Hayden turned his attention to what leaders and business representatives in the city and county have to address in the future. He pulled no punches.
“We’re not ready to take on a big employer yet,” Hayden said. “We’d stumble if we tried.”
The challenges he named included the area’s shortage of housing and skilled workers, a need to embrace minorities who call Logansport home, lack of a rail spur reaching key industrial areas, an abundance of neglected or abandoned properties — and bickering among the area’s leaders, which he called “the elephant in the room.”
“Folks, we have to stop feuding like the Hatfields and the McCoys,” he said, later calling such behavior “a terrible example to set for the leaders of tomorrow.”
Holding up the late Kathy Dingo, whose heavy influence was felt in downtown revitalization efforts, he asked everyone present to try to follow her example in leaving the community better than they found it.
“We’re not there yet,” he added. “But the good news is, there’s still time to get there.”
Armstrong agreed with much of what Hayden outlined, she said, but some challenges would depend on what each employer needed.
“Our pool of people also have other problems that don’t allow them to get hired,” she added, “and I think we need to change our mentality as a community to try and help people understand why they’re not getting hired.”
CLEDO’s board and its new chairman Jim Schrader of Logansport Memorial Hospital is planning to focus on business retention and expansion in 2014, Schrader said. In tandem with that focus will be an emphasis on strengthening area skilled trades education — namely, the Advancing Manufacturing initiative, Ivy Tech’s Pathways program and pushing the high school equivalency test replacing the General Educational Development program.
“That helps build the base for the future to go after the new employers,” Schrader said after the dinner.
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME