Guests fill the Indiana Beach Ballroom for the annual meeting of the White Count Economic Development Organization on May 18, 2023. Staff photo by Cheri Shelhart
Guests fill the Indiana Beach Ballroom for the annual meeting of the White Count Economic Development Organization on May 18, 2023. Staff photo by Cheri Shelhart
MONTICELLO — The White County Economic Development Organization (WCEDO) held its annual luncheon meeting to talk about developments over the last year and plans for the future. Guests filled the Indiana Beach Ballroom for the event and were welcomed by WCEDO President Randy Mitchell.

Mitchell also announced his replacement as he is retiring at the end of June. Randy Strasser will be the next president of the WCEDO and will begin in September.

Mitchell explained they are working with three companies on renewable energy, with Crossroads Wind Farm 2, located north of Wolcott, adding 48 turbines for a total of 458 turbines in the county. The company is investing $378 million in the additional turbines.

For solar energy, Twin Lakes Solar, LLC is building a solar farm on 1,200 acres south of Monticello between Jordan Manufacturing and Luse Road with an investment of $200 million, and Cavalry Solar LLC, building a solar farm between Buffalo and Monon, is investing $240 million into the county. It, too, will be a 1,200 acre solar farm. Meadow Lake Wind Farm, south of Reynolds on Range Line Rd., is constructing a solar array on 1,100 acres and investing nearly $3 million into the project.

“White County is the undisputed leader in renewable energy in the state,” Mitchell said, “with our wind and solar projects, businesses with anaerobic digesters, two hydroelectric dams and a landfill converting methane gas to energy.”

He said BioTownAg in Reynolds recently created BioTown BioGas, which activated a new digester and processing facility to become one of the largest renewable natural gas producers in North America.

He added the MakeMyMove initiative, which is an online marketplace connecting move-ready remote workers to cities and towns that are competing for them to set up residence in their municipality. He said the goal is to bring seven families to White County, with hopes that a spouse will also join the workforce and fill job openings locally. “And the icing on the cake would be for them to have children enroll in our schools,” Mitchell said.

He outlined the seven projects that will be funded by the Governor’s READI grant program, which include $1.5 million for work on infrastructure: water, sewer, stormwater, sidewalks and roads in designated subdivision as an incentive. A regional housing study will look at the types of housing desired for the area with a $100,000 grant that does not require a local match.

Another project will use READI funds to expand licensed high-quality childcare across the region. Right Steps Child Development Centers will use the funds with a target expansion of 70 additional sites. The current estimated capacity of childcare sites in the county is 350, and with the additional sites, that number would increase about 18%.

Invets, an organization that helps veterans find employment will work with businesses to promote their vacancies and connect veterans to local open positions and advise businesses on career pathway development plans, Mitchelll explained. “We feel this will greatly help businesses fill skilled positions,” he said. White County’s portion of those funds is $63,000.

The Monticello Riverwalk received $2 million in READI funds to begin the one mile trail linking the Monticello downtown to community attractions along the Tippecanoe River including Bluewater Beach Park.

Other projects coming to the Lafayette area will also benefit White County with an expansion of the Purdue Airport and a $1.8 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility to be constructed in Purdue’s Research Park. Ivy Tech will begin a training program for the new hires to prepare the specialized workforce ahead of the proposed plant opening in 2025. The estimated workforce will be about 750 new hires.

White County will provide up to 10 students to participate in a two week paid session to learn about chip technology. “The economic impact to the region will be immense,” Mitchell stated, “as it will attract new suppliers and service providers to create a high value ecosystem.”

He concluded, “These projects are why I am so excited about the economic development future of White County…Our state legislature has funded another round of READI 2.0 in the amount of $250 million in 2023 and another $250 million in 2024 to allow us to expand upon what we currently are working on and create additional new projects, so stay tuned!”

Keynote speaker for the event was Maureen Weber, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. She discussed the needs for quality early learning childcare in the county and across the state.

“Early learning systems have suffered fro rising costs and families that can’t afford it,” she said. Childcare can cost more per year than a college education. She said they want to increase the eligibility income level for assistance to families needing quality childcare and pre-k services. “We have more to learn as a district,” she said.

One of the suggested items is a tax credit for small businesses to support childcare services. The Holcomb administration has added $25 million in funds for employer supported childcare.

A Lilly Endowment grant of $50 million will go to non-profits working on the needs of children under age 5.

Other suggested ways employers can contribute are tuition scholarships, onsite or near site childcare services, reserved seats in the childcare facilities for employees, back up childcare services and dependent care assistance programs.

“We want to make sure we have something that works in all environments and communities,” she said.
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