RENSSELAER – The Jasper County Economic Development Organization has a plan to increase the city’s visibility so local businesses can better collaborate with it as a resource.

In providing an update Monday to the Rensselaer City Council, Stephen Eastridge, executive director of the JCEDO, disclosed plans for several events tentatively scheduled for later this year, He also provided an update on the office's work with the city so far.

"The goal for 2019 is to leave with no one saying they don't know who the economic development office is or what we do," Eastridge said. "That's something that we spent a lot of time encountering in 2018 with the public. We're hoping to attack that this year and really leave 2019 without having that as an issue going forward."

While speaking on the office's work for the Rensselaer area in 2018, Eastridge cited the Parks for People Campaign, which received one of the Jasper County Tourism Commission's largest ever portions of funding.

"A good portion of the tourism funding last year did come to the city of Rensselaer," he said. "And it may not have come directly to the city, but it went to festivals and activities that happened within the city limits, and therefore equal dollars that were spent inside the city."

The office is also planning on duplicating some events that were conducted last year.

"We held a spring job fair and it was actually a joint job fair that we did with Newton County," he said. "And we'll be doing it again this year."

The office is currently working with the Indiana Small Businesses Development office to "plan and coordinate a small business workshop," which will be hosted in Rensselaer.

"It'll be part of a larger program put on by our office," Eastridge said. "We'll do four of those types of workshops this year. I'm going to rotate them through the county to try to make sure we address needs of small businesses throughout Jasper County."

The workshop in Rensselaer will be focused on marketing, particularly focusing on the usage of teamwork and partnership. It is tentatively planned for the end of March.

On Jan. 24, Eastridge was elected to the managing board of the Northwest Indiana Forum, which is the regional economic development body. He said this, as well as his work to build up relationships with local businesses in 2018, should help improve the county's economic potential.

"I want to focus on growing our existing industry and making sure that if we have growth opportunities, that it happens within the county first,’ he said, “and that means growing our work force, too, having a skilled and trained workforce that's growing, and then having small businesses that are successful and growing … throughout the entire county."

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