Partnering for Progress hits 1,000 jobs milestone

Posted On: December 3, 2013

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DARKE COUNTY – The Darke County Economic Development office and its public-private collaborative group, Partnering for Progress (P4P) has recently marked a milestone of retaining or creating 1,000 jobs in the county.

AR-311279897“One-thousand jobs is pretty significant in a small community,” said Darke County Economic Development Director Marc Saluk. “Partnering for Progress has very strongly impacted the retention/creation of the 1,000 jobs. Ninety-five percent of these jobs are better paying manufacturing positions and almost all of them were due to helping a company grow and stay.”

Saluk said he was conservative about how he counted the number of jobs, too. He focused on real, sustainable-wage jobs that were long term, he said.

The county’s collaborative economic development group, P4P, isn’t the only one in the region, both Shelby and Preble Counties utilize a public-private partnership.

“Our county as a whole, meaning the organizations within it, the governmental entities within it, and economic development, act with unified, swift action on a project,” boasted Saluk. “We’re working totally through P4P in unison with each other. That is the one thing that distinguishes us from other counties.”

Darke County’s group has grown over the past four years to include 80 total organizations, including local communities and businesses, who contribute to local efforts. Economic development is moving towards regionalism and collaboration, and both are fundamental to the success of any economic development effort, said Saluk.

Keeping Fram in the city of Greenville was P4P’s biggest success to date, said Saluk. He said it was because P4P played the biggest role in terms of keeping the jobs in the county and that they had the most impact on the project.

“If you would’ve talked to the last plant manager [of Fram] he would have told you that the plant would not be here. We were just involved in every aspect spending countless hours to keep them here,” said Saluk.

Other top projects in the county were new company Continental Carbonic and expansions for Ramco Electric Motors, Integrity Ambulance, Whirlpool, Midmark and Polyone.

The no. 1 project for the county was to continue working on workforce development, a project that will continue to be top priority for companies and schools, said Saluk.

“Five years ago the county lost opportunities,” said Saluk, and their goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future, he added. In the last four years, Saluk said they have stayed in touch with Darke County businesses, made yearly visits and have become a viable resource.

“The fact that we are noting that a 1,000 jobs have been saved or added as a result of the Economic Development Office headed by Marc Saluk, as part of the Partnering for Progress initiative, is certainly commendable,” said Marv Stammen, who was on the committee that hired Saluk. “What is more noteworthy, in my opinion, is that we now have the structure and staff in place to sustain a strong economic development program in Darke County for the future.”

The county has continued to climb in top-ranking micropolitians over the years, starting unrated in 2009, when P4P, in its current form, took shape, coming in at 41 in 2010, then 21st place in 2011 and sitting at no. 13 since 2012, according to Site Selection Magazine, a leading national economic development publication, Saluk said.

“Now companies are realizing that anything that impacts their growth, P4P can play a role in. There is no reason to wait until the last minute to get us involved,” said Saluk. “The sooner that a company that is planning a project comes to us, the better they are going to be in the long run. The earlier we can be involved, the more we can do to help them.”

Saluk reported that developing a comprehensive workforce in the county and keeping more young adults living and working in the county are challenges for businesses and economic development as a whole.

“Workforce development has the ability to touch every person and every business, every day,” said Saluk.

The goals for 2014, Saluk noted, were to keep the region active, keep focusing on retention and expansion in the county, engaging companies, preparing the workforce and offering more resources and incentives for companies to build and expand.

Midmark Corporation in Versailles, which recently completed a 50,000 square foot addition to their Darke County operation in anticipation of future growth, agrees that working together is essential to the growth of Darke County, said Karl Weidner, vice president of manufacturing.

“I think the importance of the partnership [in Darke County] is the skills that are in that group [P4P], that have been very helpful, specifically for Midmark, as we look to grow our business profitably in the future,” Weidner commented. “So, for example, what Marc Saluk brings, as well as all of P4P, is expertise in business development, that those of us who are very busy running our business on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis, don’t necessarily have. That’s really important for us as we work with the state of Ohio, the county, the village, and the community at large in executing growth plans for the future.”