Meeting for the first time in eight months, Jay County Development Corp. did some catching up.

The organization, which had not met in person since February because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, approved its 2021 budget, elected officers and directors and reviewed the last 20 months of activity during its annual meeting Tuesday.

The JCDC board approved its 2021 budget at $309,650, which is up about $17,000 over the current year. That increase came in the form of public pledges — funding from local government — as the organization requested and received additional funding from the county and City of Portland. (It comes after several years of budget cuts.) Private pledges — those from local businesses and industries — are expected to be down.

The biggest change in JCDC spending plans for 2021 is the elimination of a $5,000 expenditure for the Hoosier Opportunity local jobs website, a partnership between Jay, Randolph and Wayne counties. Those funds will come directly from economic development dollars rather than being funneled through the JCDC budget.

JCDC executive director Travis Richards reviewed 2020 spending thus far, saying the organization is under budget in part because of limited travel and other related expenses during the pandemic.

“We look like we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

The board elected Barbara Street as secretary and Trent Paxson as treasurer. President Doug Loy and vice president Doug Stanley are in the midst of their two-year terms at the helm.

The board also retained directors Dan Watson, Gyneth Augsburger, Ashley Savieo, Loy and Stanley. It elected Angela Paxson, Alicia Corwin and Josh Atkinson as new directors.

The newcomers replace the retiring Bob Lyons and Larry Holmes as well as Duane Sautbine, who departed the board early this year after moving to Florida.

Jay County Community Development director Ami Huffman and Richards shared with the board much of the same information they presented to commissioners last month, detailing the worked their organization has done over the course of the last year-plus.

Reviewing the JCDC strategic plan, Richards detailed how the organization has worked toward its goals.

On the economic development front, it worked with local industries FCC, Reier Pullets, Minnich Poultry, Tyson Mexican Original, Fisher Packing and Fort Recovery Industries on $16.2 million in investments this year. He pointed out that tax abatements for those projects represent an investment by local government of about $1.6 million while tax revenue brought in during the same period is $6.6 million.

For housing, he noted that a task force has been created to help encourage and work toward new developments. He explained the CrownPointe Communities is planning an expansion north of its current site in Portland and that the task force is pursing other developers.

On infrastructure, he reiterated the need for high-speed internet in underserved or unserved areas of the county. Watch Communications won the federal Connect America Fund Phase II contract for the county and has until 2025 to build out the infrastructure to serve the specified areas.

For workforce development, he highlighted Manufacturing Day, an event JCDC sponsors in which local high school students tour industries to learn about jobs that may be available to them after graduation.

Huffman’s overview explained that in her 15 years at the helm, Jay County Community Development has worked with local communities to bring in more than $22 million in funding through grants and loans. That has gone toward projects such the new fire station in Redkey, the addition of a senior center at Jay Community Center and sewer separation and wastewater treatment plant upgrades for Redkey.

This year, Huffman has helped communities work to receive their funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. She is in the process of working on the expansion of the Pennville library through $333,333 in funding Jay Region! received for being a finalist for the state’s 2019 Stellar Communities designation.

She has also worked with communities on Community Crossings grants through Indiana Department of Transportation. Jay County, Portland, Dunkirk and Redkey were awarded a combined $2.19 million for paving projects so far this year.

The board also heard its 2019 audit report from Scott Bollenbacher of Bollenbacher and Associates. The accounting firm gave the organization its highest rating for the overall report and for its use of internal controls.
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