Declining Population, High Taxes Hampering Pulaski County’s Economy

Pulaski County’s economy is under duress. CDC Executive Director Nathan P. Origer told those in attendance at Tuesday’s economic development summit that is in spite of some very real positives, including BraunAbiltiy’s continued investment and Galbreath’s aggressive hiring.  Additionally, Origer says Winamac Coil Spring is significantly outpacing the employment requirements for its forgivable loan and MetalFab Engineering has doubled their annual workforce and increased their revenues exponentially.]

Origer says Pulaski County’s population is declining sharply. He says the 2010 census showed 13,402 residents, with a projected decline to below 13,000 by 2025. Origer says that happened in 2014.

He adds Pulaski County has the highest per capita personal income tax rate in Indiana.

Origer has been frustrated of late with the county commissioners and their refusal to approve a proposed cable television advertising buy to market Pulaski County as a summer tourism destination to Chicagoland area residents. Origer publicly apologized for his reaction to their opposition during his remarks and elaborated on why he feels its important to advertise outside of the area.

“People can’t relocate to Pulaski County if they don’t realize how great this place truly is. They can’t be exposed to all that our community has to offer if they don’t visit, and they can’t visit if they don’t know we exist. Increasing tourism isn’t some kind of elixir that will magically save us, and I’m not going to tell you that every transient visitor, or even one in 10 guests, is going to relocate. But we’ll never know if we don’t try.”

The county’s proposed development of a rail-served industrial park near Medaryville has also stalled. Origer says they are at risk of losing a potential tenant if something doesn’t happen soon.

“It’s all about capitalizing on our existing agriculture economy. In the worst-case scenario we see no interest in the site for a few years, and we cash rent it, ultimately putting the land back on the market if the project fails. No major harm done. In the best case scenario, we replace agricultural ground, just a little bit, with industrial development. Generates more property tax income for the county.”

Even though Pulaski County’s population is declining, Origer says there are enough people in the surrounding area to assuage any concerns over whether the local workforce is adequate to support new industry.