GREENFIELD — 2019 was likely the year more money than ever before was invested in Hancock County businesses and developments, according to Randy Sorrell, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council.

“I’m here to talk about the state of the Hancock County economy, and it is very, very strong,” Sorrell said.

Sorrell made his remarks at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Community luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 7, where many speakers emphasized the growth the county has experienced in the past year and its economic benefits.

The U.S. Census Bureau most recently estimated the population of Hancock County, in July of 2018, at 76,351 people. That represents an increase of approximately 9 percent since 2010.

Businesses have also been eager to move in. Sorrell reported that during 2019, his organization received 80 requests for information about the community from businesses considering locating in Hancock County. The Economic Development Council responded to 38 businesses whose needs it believed the county could fit, and 13 have so far established locations.

That resulted in a capital investment of over $200 million and about 400 new jobs, Sorrell said.

Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said the city has brought several significant employers to town in the past year, including manufacturer Yamaha Precision Marine Propellers. He said the development of projects like the Depot Street park along the Pennsy Trail; the planned literary trail; and a planned inclusive playground designed for use by children with disabilities are key in attracting families — and employers — to Hancock County.

“I don’t know if you noticed driving out here today, but we don’t have any beaches, we don’t have any mountains. Anything we do, we have to invent,” Fewell said.

Fewell said the city has also helped make it easier for new businesses to move into the area by simplifying its zoning ordinances. Developers, he said, will now be able to complete the majority of their application online to build in the city.

Meeting with members of the mayor’s youth council, which is composed of Greenfield-Central High School students, has also helped him understand community needs, Fewell said.

“When they graduate, I want them to go away if they wish, but I want them to come back,” Fewell said. “The only way I can bring them back is to ask, ‘What do I have to have for you to want to come back to Greenfield?’”

The students sent out a survey to their fellow students to ask what they wanted to see change in the community and received over 900 responses.

“What do you think the number one thing was?” Fewell said. “Chick-Fil-A. We’ve called Chick-Fil-A a hundred times.”

Fewell said the city plans to continue collaborating with the Economic Development Council, local schools and other entities to bring more residents and businesses to Greenfield — though Chick-Fil-A may or may not be among them.

“It’ll be a continued growth project, and we’re going to be successful all the way through. I’m excited to be a part of it,” Fewell said.

Hancock County Council President Bill Bolander said he believes the county will continue to grow in the upcoming years, and that the council continues to see an increasing demand for housing.

“I expect to see a lot more people coming into the county,” Bolander said.

Sorrell said local governments have helped Hancock County become a top-tier location for businesses looking for access to interstate highways.

“We have a very good business climate. We hear that all the time from the projects that are coming here, that Hancock County is very business-friendly,” Sorrell said. “Our competition is Hendricks County, Boone County — when you drive down the highway and see things happening in those areas, that’s who our competition is. But also, we compete with Columbus, Ohio; and Dayton, Ohio. We compete with Louisville. We compete with Cincinnati. And we’re getting a lot of looks, and not just looks but commitments.”
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