Leadership new focus for GDC

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

After focusing on downtown development the past couple of years, the Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center will turn its attention to leadership development.

That was what Development Center Executive Director Kristin Clary told the City Council at its January meeting.

“The last couple years we focused on downtown development and we grew the Main Street program,” she said. “We’ve handed that off to our own Main Street director, Mike Richmond, so this year we’re going to focus on leadership development.

“Putnam County had a leadership academy many years ago in the early 1990s,” Clary noted.

Efforts have been made to revive the program a number of times, she added, “but it has fallen by the wayside.”

“So we’re going to put a little bit of emphasis on that this year as well.”

Clary said the challenge is to build up the ranks of potential leaders locally “so they can be our next generation when we’re all ready to step away.”

Clary was appearing before the City Council last Thursday in her annual request for Development Center funding.

The Council unanimously approved the funding at the same $50,000 annual rate that has been provided the last few years.

The city and county both provide $50,000, while another $40,000 is collected via private utilities and other corporations, Clary said.

Before the Council acted on Dave Murray’s motion for approval, Clary detailed her duties and those of her office.

Tax abatement is the No. 1 function within her contract, she said.

“Anytime an industry grows in machinery and equipment or increases their footprint, we work with them on tax abatement opportunities,” Clary said.

Each spring she comes before the City Council to address the tax abatement compliance of the local companies.

She and her office also assist any “expanding or existing companies that are making new expansions that may want to apply for tax abatement.”

In working with the city’s industries over the last few years, Clary said the No. 1 need has been the workforce development component, bringing educators and employers together along with some community leaders.

With the county’s unemployment rate sitting at 3.2 percent, Clary points out that anything under five percent is considered “really unemployable or at full employment.”

“So we’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways” to fill positions locally, she added.

Local employment opportunities exist “with almost all of our distributors and our manufacturers,” Clary said.

The Development Center director pointed out that with some of the companies using robots for repetitive, menial tasks, many of the entry-level jobs, “the no-skill jobs are going away.”

For example, she said Phoenix Closures now uses a robotics system to place some plastic bottles into cardboard boxes. The result is that while humans no longer do that chore, a more highly trained individual is needed to program how the robot operates.

Another function of the Development Center, Clary noted, is marketing both property it owns (land behind Chiyoda) and other land owned by the city to potential industrial clients.

Clary invited the Council members to the Development Center’s annual meeting, set for 11:30 a.m. Feb. 14 at Endeavor Communications in Cloverdale. The topic will be Broadband and Company Culture.

With more and more people working from home and schools using e-learning days when bad weather intervenes, the need for Broadband is ever-increasing.

“Greencastle is fortunate,” Clary said, to have internet access virtually everywhere. Broadband is a “huge issue in the county,” she added.

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