MOUNT VERNON — While 2018 was a good year for the Area Development Foundation, President Jeffry Harris is even more excited about 2019.
Harris shared the new mission statement with members at the annual ADF meeting Monday at the B&O Depot in Mount Vernon. The mission, he said, is to help create more jobs of high quality, match good employers to the workers and advance efforts to support livable communities in Knox County.
“We want to grow our communities in a meaningful way,” Harris said. “We want to be the center of excellence and want sound public policies.”
To help facilitate more high-quality jobs being created in Knox County, Harris said they need to develop an inventory of high-quality lands and buildings, as well as market the shovel ready sites to end users.
Harris also feels ADF can help influence workforce development by facilitating and driving collaboration with businesses.
But, one of the biggest things, and something totally new to the ADF, he said, is the idea of creating a livable community. To do that, Harris said they have three goals — ensure good housing options, making the Knox County Land Bank a full participant in the real estate market and guide villages through their own comprehensive plan processes.
“Why so many changes? We have less than five years to figure out how to make this foundation a sustainable business model. I think this is the way we do that,” Harris said.
Harris also updated members on the changes proposed to the Code of Regulations. He wants to turn members into investors in the communities, then change the board size from 19 members to just nine with three officers. From there, they will have five committees — jobs; workforce development; livable communities; finance; and nominating.
“It’s a dramatic change to how things operate,” Harris said.
Harris also talked about many of the successes for ADF in 2018. They began helping communities develop a comprehensive plan and conducted 10 business retention and expansion programs. The Knox County Land Bank was also formed in 2018, and Makerspace, a nonprofit business that provides an innovating, collaborative environment in downtown Mount Vernon, also opened. Makerspace was a huge success, growing from $752 to more than $155,000 in revenue in one year.
Members of ADF also got a chance to hear from Chip Holcombe, director of investment relations for Columbus 2020.
Columbus 2020 helps market and promote the 11-county area around Columbus. Holcombe admitted to chiefly being a fundraiser, but said that one of the jobs of the group is to set the strategic planning and talk with industrial leaders from around the area on how to improve things and create more jobs.
“The biggest thing is infrastructure. Then, improve the workforce. A lot of industries say they have too many job openings and not enough skilled labor,” Holcombe said.
At the end of the meeting, members elected new board members for the 2022 term. Renee McDaniel, Mark Ramser, Dave Beck, Richard Mavis, Bruce White, Vicki Sant and Ryan Shoemaker were all voted in as new board members.