As Pulaski County faces challenges related to population loss and its long-term financial health, there are also a lot of great things going on. That’s the message Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer shared with local government and business leaders during his annual State of the County Economy Address. “I hope you remember that today is never too late to be brand new,” he said. “I challenge everyone here to be willing to start anew, as we work to build Pulaski County into Mayberry 2.0.”
Origer said the county’s manufacturing industry remains resilient and strong, in spite of a tight labor market that has virtually all of the county’s manufacturers looking for workers.
At the same time, he said Pulaski County continues to make headway on workforce development. “After countless frustrating delays and hiccups, we’re in the fourth semester of our Pulaski County Repair and Maintenance Technology program at West Central High School,” Origer said. “Students enrolled in the program, just by going through the prerequisites in the Connexus Higher Tech curriculum have already had the opportunity to earn a boatload of Ivy Tech credits and to test for, and in quite a few cases, to pass nationally-recognized certifications.” Now, he envisions opening the program up to employees of local companies and those looking for work, as well as maybe launching a separate version for jail inmates through a work release program.
Origer said that what may have been the coolest thing to happen in Pulaski County’s manufacturing sector in the past year was Galfab’s move toward employee ownership. “After having been bought out by a private capital firm, merged into a larger company with divisions in parts and distribution, as well as manufacturing, and renamed to having Galfab relegated to the name of their equipment line, Galfab returned to its independent roots this past year with the sale of the company to its employees through an ESOP, employee stock option plan.”
Origer also noted the return of the county’s tourism campaign. “Later this month, our spectacular television commercial returns to Chicagoland, apprising all of those suburbanites and yuppies of the great day trip destination that we offer: the Tippy, the state park, the trail, cheap golf, pizza and beer, face-sized tenderloins and more beer, top-notch paintball, sandhill cranes, so much more – all so close to one of the largest metro areas in the country, the 40th-largest metro area in the world, in fact.”
However, Origer said Pulaski County also faces several challenges. One that’s been taking up a lot of his time recently is how to address the idea of wind energy development. “Already, before the first permit and application has been filed, I’ve had more dealings with windmills than Don Quixote,” he joked.
Another concern is Pulaski County’s population decline. Origer pointed out that only one Indiana county has lost a larger percentage of its population since 2010.