Economic development leaders discuss jobs and training center

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Economic development stakeholders inspected the redevelopment efforts of the former “Bowen-Carter” building in downtown Rushville this week. When completed, the front of the building will house the local WorkOne office managed by Eastern Indiana Works. The rear of the building will be the home of a new manufacturer-driven regional training center under the direction of the Rush County ECDC. Ivy Tech has been working to partner with the ECDC to deliver training opportunities. When completed, the community is going to have a one-stop shop that allows unemployed and under-employed workers to go to a single location to improve their skill sets and to seek new employment. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018.

According to economic development officials, there is a great need to train more people to fill the jobs pipeline with extremely low unemployment rates. According to the most recent figures released by the State of Indiana, Rush County ranks 72nd out of Indiana’s 92 counties in regards to low unemployment. Rush County leads their economic growth region for employment with an unemployment rate of 3.2%.

“All of our local manufacturers are hiring,” ECDC Director John McCane said. “It is our goal to create a one-stop shop where someone unemployed can not only sign up for a job, but they can also get the testing and training that will help them get a new or better job. This is a critical component in the ECDC’s workforce development plan.”

According to local officials, the new training center is owned by the ECDC, which is a public-private not-for-profit. Through this partnership, funding comes from the City of Rushville, Rush County, the Town of Glenwood and partner memberships. The building will be funded through lease revenues, investment from industry partners, grants and with ECDC funds on hand.

“We have had people ask if the Bowen-Carter name will continue to grace the downtown,” Mayor Pavey said. “As a community, we have highly invested in our local historic fabric. However, the new façade will be of such significance that the look will need to change. The original lettering is off-center and does not lend itself for symmetry or aesthetic sense.”

The Mayor did say that efforts are underway to find a way to recognize the history of the Bowen-Carter building. Pavey stated that the ECDC and the city intends to recognize the historical significance of the building perhaps through sidewalk bricks, or photo displays in the lobby, or both.

Eastern Indiana Works plans to move into the rehabilitated building immediately upon completion. Research into the topic indicates a Workforce Training Center with workforce development training programs that are manufacturer-driven is necessary to keep our community and region relevant in the workforce arena. Surveys and conversations with local and regional employers indicate buy-in at all levels.

The ECDC has partnered with the Rushville Street Department in the rehabilitation of the jobs training center. The street department staff has been working on demolition efforts and concrete work. Through this cooperation, those items completed locally come off the bottom line of the contract and provides projects to the department during slower times and off-season.

“I can’t say enough for the hard working staff of the Rushville Street Department,” ECDC Chairman David Reid said. “Through their expertise and talents, we have been able to save considerably on this project. There is no doubt that they have helped us move this project along faster and with fiscal responsibility.”

Local officials believe that the new workforce center will complement the State of Indiana’s direction as the State Legislature and the Governor’s Office join efforts to grow job skill sets throughout the state. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development estimates there will be more than one million jobs to fill in the state by 2024 – and most of them won’t require a college degree. Instead, many employers will be looking for highly-skilled workers with specialized certificates to fill positions in everything from manufacturing to healthcare.

“We have to have this ready, skilled-up workforce here at home, right in our backyard,” Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said, “in addition to attracting talent from all over the world.”