Tuesday morning the NEDC touted it’s past year accomplishments and plans for the future before a crowd of investors at the Eagles Club at the organization’s annual Investors’ Breakfast.
The 15-year-old public-private partnership had a hand in last year’s $15 million expansion at Borger and the $5 million expansion at New Horizons Bakery, according to Past-President Jeff Huber. He said the Borger project resulted in the 150,000 square feet of additional space and 80 new positions, while the New Horizons project added 15,000 square feet to the facility and helped assure that the 164 full-time jobs there remain in Norwalk.
Huber noted that while NEDC receives grant and city of Norwalk funding, about 50 percent of its funding comes from private investors.
“Obviously, we represent the people in this room, but we also represent everyone else,” Huber said, noting the group’s focus on business and industry attraction, retention, expansion and start-up, benefits not only investors, but Norwalk, Huron County and the entire region.
Much of Tuesday’s program focused on NEDC’s efforts in workforce development, which is top of mind for all area employers.
NEDC director Heather Horowitz told the group about the work the organization is doing with local schools to help assure that local industries in the future have access to a properly trained, drug-free local pool of workers. Those efforts include helping develop curriculum focused on work issues as early as the fifth-grade. She said NEDC’s “Conduit U” is dedicated to connecting business and education through videos, tours, internships and hands-on learning.
A business advisory council has been established to make sure the interests of the workplace align with those of education.
Denny Doughty, Norwalk Catholic School president, discussed the schools’ project to start branches of the Drug Free Clubs of America in the city’s schools.
“We want to develop a whole group of sober and drug-free students who can go straight into the workforce,” Doughty said. “We’re committed to making Norwalk a better place.”
Tom Secor, president of Durable Corp. and a member of the NEDC board, told attendees about the activities of the Norwalk Manufacturing Group. A NEDC project, the group of local manufacturers meet regularly to discuss common issues they face and evaluate possible solutions that will benefit all manufacturers in Norwalk. Workforce and training are among the main areas of concern for the group.
“There are good quality people in this community who are looking for jobs,” Secor said. “You may have to pay more than $12 an hour to get them but they are out there and they want to work.”
One new initiative discussed at the event was NEDC’s involvement in the Regional Incubator for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (RISE) program which was started in Erie County in 2011. Erie County Economic Development Corp. Director Abby Beamis was in attendance to explain the workings of RISE which, in partnership with Lorain County Community College and BGSU Firelands, has been instrumental in helping launch start-up companies in Erie County. It was noted that next to expansion of existing operations, new startup businesses are the the top source of new jobs.
Beamis said RISE has served 150 clients over the past seven years that have created 200 jobs and that it is now working with about 45 clients a year. RISE will be now be helping Huron County entrepreneurs as well.
In wrapping up the event, John Evans, of Evans Funeral Home, NEDC president, thanked those present for their investment in Norwalk.
“There’s a lot of activity going on at NEDC,” Evans said. “We need to change; we are changing.”