Reprinted with permission from the Vincennes Sun-Commercial newspaper, January 8, 2022

The county’s leading economic development organization had a pretty big 2021.

Chris Pfaff, president of Knox County Indiana Economic Development, kicked the new year off highlighting for his board of directors, as they gathered Friday morning at Vincennes University’s Learning Resource Center, some of the organization’s biggest advancements from the previous year, not the least of which was a complete rebranding.

This fall, the group opted to change its name from the Knox County Development Corp., commonly called just KCDC, to Knox County Indiana Economic Development and launched a new logo and website to go with it, all in the hope of making a greater mark, both in the state and region.

Working with TD Advertising, the organization’s marketing committee conducted a comprehensive analysis of how best to represent the corporation to its target audiences.

The changes, Pfaff reported, have been “well received,” both locally and throughout the state, and they hope will help further differentiate the organization from other cities and counties which have Knox in their names.

Pfaff, too, highlighted the organization’s efforts to expand high-speed internet service to underserved, rural portions of Knox County.

Knox Economic Development worked alongside the Purdue Center for Regional Development and the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs in drafting and hosting a broadband survey, which helped identify gaps in high-speed internet coverage.

The data is now being used to attract additional funding and service providers to the community, Pfaff said.

Too, Pfaff said five local businesses last year initiated or completed expansion projects in Bicknell, Sandborn, and Vincennes.

Only one of those, however, has been announced publicly; Larry Wagler, owner of Blue Jay Supplies, a wood wall panel and truss manufacturer located in Sandborn, went before members of the county council in February with plans to invest more than $3.5 million to upgrade and expand his existing 38,000-square-foot building located on Indiana 67.

The company asked for and was granted a tax abatement on the project.

Collectively, though, Pfaff said the five expansion projects — with more news on those expected later this year — represent more than $12.5 million in capital investment and nearly 300 new jobs.

“The other four company names will be released once these projects have completed the local incentive process and are positioned for public announcement in early 2022,” Pfaff said.

The economic development organization also in 2021 responded to more than a dozen site selectors looking for property or land on which to build or expand.

Though no actual site visits have been scheduled from those regional and statewide searches, Pfaff said, many of them are still “active projects.”

“A number of those prospects were only initiated in the last quarter,” he said, “so it’s very much yet to be determined if any of those will result in actual visits.”

Too, Pfaff said he expects the economic development organization to decide whether or not this year to move forward with the construction of a shell building, an idea the organization has been focused on now for more than a year.

Recognizing the majority of business and industry leaders are currently seeking an existing building — not necessarily property on which to build — the Site Development Committee continued active discussions of a shell building, even enlisting information from companies interested in taking the project on, specifically Garmong Construction in Terre Haute.

A shell building is typically constructed with a generic design and is adaptable to a variety of business needs. They’re large, usually at least 50,000 square feet, and quite rough, often with very few, if any, finishings, to allow the buyer to complete it to their own liking and needs.

The benefit to businesses, though, is that much of the work is already done; the utilities are already there, and these buildings can easily be adapted or even expanded.

These types of buildings, Pfaff added Friday, are typically sought by companies needing to move forward quickly, and the large majority of business and industry leaders considering Indiana are seeking existing buildings.

So the committee will determine this year whether it will recommend to the full board to move forward on such an investment or not.

“We’re working through the due diligence on that project,” he said.

Knox Economic Development also in 2021 celebrated the launch of its new non-profit arm, Knox Life, an organization that only recently completed a survey of local residents looking for their most desired quality of life improvements.

Knox Life, comprised mostly of local young professionals, hopes to work toward the implementation of at least some of those initiatives this year.

Knox Life was initiated early in 2021 when members of Knox Economic Development began to think and talk about potential quality of life improvements throughout the county, all in an effort to achieve their long-term goal of growing the county’s population, thereby its workforce.

Led by the economic development organization’s vice-chair Shepard Dunn, members have said they want to be a “catalyst for change,” whether that be in connecting people to the resources they need, finding the money to pay for certain quality of life projects or holding community-wide events.

Their first event was a countywide cleanup modeled after Burkhart Insurance Agency’s City-Wide Cleanup. That event was held on Sept. 11.

Participating teams collected 90 large bags of trash in just about four hours by dispersing to various parts of the city.

As such, the organization donated money to each team — a total of $1,800 that was then distributed to a dozen local nonprofits.

They hope to hold more such cleanups in 2022.