State, Federal Agency Representatives Offer Insight on ‘Powering Rural’

“Powering Rural” was a focus of this week’s Pulaski County Economic Development summit. The Community Development Commission assembled a panel of representatives from five state and federal agencies, who each discussed what they can do to support rural businesses.

Eric Armacost with the U.S. Small Business Administration told those in attendance that Pulaski County is not alone in the challenges it faces. “There are a lot of folks across rural America that are trying to figure out how they’re going to transition from an older economic model and employ new devices, new techniques, new procedures, new processes, to keep their local economies vibrant and meaningful,” he said.

But when asked for specific examples of counties similar to Pulaski that are successfully attacking those challenges, some panelists took a different approach. Gerry White with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs stressed that every county and community is unique. “One of the things that we have done, and we’ve done it with partners at Purdue and with other organizations and agencies, is trying to work with the city government and with other organizations within the community, to sit there and find where the assets and the strengths are and be able to accentuate those to move forward,” White said. “And then what we did was not to dismiss or ignore the problem areas but find a strategic way to be able to address those issues on a daily basis, as well as on a long-term basis.”

White said that locally, Jasper County is dealing with the economic impact of the shutdown of Saint Joseph’s College. He also highlighted the transformation that Delphi was able to make, thanks to its Stellar Community designation.

White said that in Pulaski County, each community appears to be trying to resolve challenges individually, but as the issues become more well-known, they’ll become more solvable at the county level.