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2/1/2012 3:45:00 PM
Area economic development group: Sullivan County's future filled with potential

Carey Shea, Sullivan Daily Times

Sullivan County’s economic prospects look optimistic said Mike Heaton, the spokesperson for a relatively new economic development agency in the region during a special meeting Tuesday at the courthouse.

Heaton said that Indiana’s economic position is better than ever for attracting new business, and for Sullivan County, its proximity to bigger cities and recreational opportunities make it a viable option for entrepreneurs.

“Indiana is like this bastion in the Midwest,” he said. “If you look over in Illinois it’s a disaster; Michigan is losing population; Ohio is very slow and bureaucratic to get things done. We’re looking real good right now.”

Heaton is the economic development regional manager for Duke Energy. After seeing similar regional development groups form in the state, he decided to start one here.

Heaton formed Accelerate West Central Indiana Economic Development two years ago to help better market Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties to the world.

“It just makes sense to pool resources to market the region,” he said.

The Sullivan County Redevelopment Commission has given $2,500 out of its Economic Development Income Tax fund to be a part of AWCIED. Other counties have given money to the organization as well, allowing AWCIED members to travel and market the region.

Heaton said he has been to conferences and hosted meetings in Indianapolis, Chicago and even traveled to Japan to stir up interest.

As for the Wabash Valley, Heaton said the area has several attractive features.

“There’s a lot of great sites, there’s good transportation, there’s a good infrastructure and the rail system is good,” he said.

Deann Talley, Sullivan County’s part-time economic development director, added that the county’s central location and attractions should be used to lure new businesses and people.

“We are a half-an-hour drive to Vincennes and Terre Haute,” she said. “We have a lot of recreational facilities here. A lot of people like to live here, and they’ll commute.”

She continued that overall, Indiana’s corporate tax rate is lower than Illinois’, yet another attractive bonus.

Though Heaton said no new businesses have been brought to the area through AWCIED’s efforts, he said definite inroads have been made.

“We have only been around for two years,” he said. “This is a really long-term process, we’re just trying to get the word out about the region.

“If you don’t get out there and beat the symbols, nobody will know you exist.”

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