Since 2003, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Greensburg Decatur County has been working to encourage economic development and growth in the region, doing so by bringing a variety of local and regional stakeholders to the table to collectively capitalize on the region’s full potential.
The EDC is a strong organization with a foundation built on cooperation and a shared focus on economic and community development in Greensburg Decatur County. The vision is to secure sustainable growth that harmonizes the best things about the region and builds upon them.
From Executive Director of the EDC Bryan Robbins’ perspective, “For a rural community like this to have all those players in the same room discussing planning and projects and business attraction, it’s a real asset to our community.”
Indeed, cooperation has been paramount to economic competitiveness in Greensburg Decatur County. As Robbins stated, “We would not be doing the area a benefit if we didn’t coordinate regionally.” To Robbins and his counterparts, borders are just lines on a map. He joked, “We keep our rivalries on the basketball court, and we work together quite well from a regional standpoint because we know the potential we have.” This collaborative approach pays dividends when working together from a budgetary, resource, and best practices standpoint.
Location and logistical connectivity are perhaps the area’s most impressive assets. As Indiana is the Crossroads of the United States, Decatur County is the Crossroads of Indiana and is doing all that it can to maximize the advantages it can derive in this regard. “Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America because of the interstates that pass through and we’re just an hour from six of those interstates so you can get north, south, east, west – wherever you want to go,” said Robbins. Greensburg Decatur County is within just 30 miles of three of the six.
EDC Greensburg Decatur County is active in partnerships such as the Interstate-74 Corridor, which is a major area of focus considering Greensburg Decatur County’s midpoint location between Indianapolis and Cincinnati along the interstate, a location that holds great potential from a retail/commercial and infrastructure standpoint.
“We’re in the middle of I-74 and we want to be in the middle of it all, not only to the benefit of us, but those around us as well,” Robbins explained. “Because of the ease of access, we’re not only good for business but we’re also good for the labor force.”
Greensburg Decatur County is in fact only a day’s drive from nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population and proximate to major centers like Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The area is prime to become a bedroom community where residents can enjoy the pace and quality of life associated with a smaller community without sacrificing access to the services and amenities of a larger metropolitan area.
The EDC has taken on a significant project to establish the community in this regard, by undertaking the expansion of broadband internet into the county’s rural areas, which Robbins explained has been underserved for too long. He noted, “We know that it’s no longer an amenity; it’s a necessity.”
When it comes to economic drivers, the region is home to an automotive supercluster that serves as the pillar of the local economy. Honda Manufacturing of Indiana employs 3000 people and depends on local and regional suppliers for its supply chain, which represents significant direct and indirect employment.
“We’re very lucky to have Honda Manufacturing of Indiana just five miles down the road, which is a company that is constantly on the cutting edge of automotive technology,” said Robbins. “We want to make sure that we stay up with the times so that we can keep up with what’s going on in their facility and others.”
Decatur County also has a rich agricultural history, though there has been a shift in focus to manufacturing. There are also growing regional opportunities in the biomedical field and IT defense sectors. There are efforts to integrate innovation and technology across all industries and sectors, including the legacy agricultural sector, helping it to diversify into energy and food processing activities in Greensburg Decatur County.
KB Foods, a supplier of Kroger, has maintained a food processing presence in the area for some time and has become a leading employer. It recently made an investment in a biodigester, proving that innovation and advanced technology is a priority for employers in the region.
To be sure, Greensburg Decatur County is open for business. The area is also home to three business parks that are located less than one mile from I-74. Business Enterprise Park is conveniently located across from Honda on the other side of the interstate and offers 550 acres of available land, gold certified shovel-ready by the State of Indiana. Adams Rail Park is also certified shovel-ready and offers over 60 acres of developable land that has been zoned for both commercial and industrial use. The advantages offered by this park include direct access to the CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National mainlines.
Another project of importance that is ongoing in the area is the Veteran’s Way project, where 220 acres of land along the interstate on the north side of Greensburg has been identified as ideal for retail development, especially considering its midpoint location along the I-74. The project will see the construction of a 1.1-mile road south of the interstate in a relatively undeveloped area to spur retail and residential growth and pay tribute to veterans. The project has received local, regional, and state support.
The EDC also works closely with local educational institutions to ensure the needs of its students and its employers are being met. This includes a focus on relevant educational programming and workforce development.
“Our schools are fantastic, and we continue to partner with them to advance what they offer,” said Robbins, both in terms of traditional fields and classroom learning, as well as the establishment of new career pathways for students to develop applicable skills in healthcare, IT and of course, manufacturing.
The region is home to a hardworking population but since that labor pool is shallow given the low rate of unemployment (despite pulling from a regional workforce of over 170,000), efforts are being taken to create more direct career pathways in the applied fields that are experiencing the bulk of the growth. Attraction efforts are also being undertaken.
“We’re focused on population attraction and making sure the infrastructure and the building blocks are in place,” said Robbins. “And that includes housing and quality of life projects and any sort of additional utilities, making sure those are in place to take advantage of the success of local business.”
While much of rural Indiana is struggling with a declining population, Decatur County is slated to maintain and even grow, and with this, Greensburg is embarking on its first full branding campaign to communicate the numerous advantages associated with living and working in the area. The goal is to become a regional center in Southeast Indiana and with the growth in population it will become richer in diversity, age, ethnicity and skill sets, which will make it a stronger, more vibrant version of itself.
In 2016, community leaders came together and surveyed the community to get a sense of what people wanted and what the community needed. The collective voice made it clear that priorities should be the development of parks, the addition of a splash pad, trails and paths, and cultural amenities that improve the quality of life, such as an outdoor amphitheater for performances.
On the quality of life front, action has also been taken to ensure that those who are attracted to the community have diverse and affordable housing options to choose from, including townhomes and condominiums as well as single family homes. Greensburg Decatur County has both the capacity and the room to grow.
With its charming and historic downtown, where Greensburg’s claim to fame, the tree(s) in the courthouse, can be found, the area offers a safe place to raise a family and a wonderful backdrop for those interested in having what Robbins called, “a great little town to come back home to,” and local officials haven’t forgotten to focus on the heart of the community.
“With any community, as long as you have the right people around the table and a focused vision on where you want to be, it’s going to be a lot easier determining how to get there,” said Robbins. Greensburg Decatur County is well on its way.