During a flood of change and hardship due to COVID-19, the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. has tried to be a lifeboat for local business.
Last week, EDC President Corey Murphy said his 3-person office has worked hard to help in its role as distributor of funds from an Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant.
Murphy said that so far, $171,500 has been earmarked for 21 local businesses. A total of $75,000 has been funded to eight businesses. Meanwhile, there is “close to $100,000 in the pipeline.”
The city was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs in May. The money from a new COVID-19 Response Program is designed to assist New Castle’s hardest-hit manufacturers and retail businesses.
Coupled with the EDC’s Enterprise Loan Fund, these dollars have helped local business weather a storm in truly unchartered waters. Murphy praised office manager Kelli Wasson and special projects coordinator Penny York for the hard work they’ve done during one of the busiest times a local EDC office has ever seen.
“Penny has taken the lead on the city business grants,” Murphy said. “She’s interviewed more than 100 people. But the back office and the record keeping, if I didn’t have somebody to do that and do it very well, the program would fail. And that’s Kelli.”
Murphy generated applause for Wasson at the August EDC meeting when he said she was celebrating 13 years with the EDC.
More money is available to help, Murphy said.
“We’re strategically holding back some resources in case we head into this winter and things get a little worse,” Murphy said. “We’re trying to be smart.”
And on that topic, Murphy offered some local business advice.
“The message we’re sending to anybody who will listen is if you’re a small-business owner and you don’t have an online presence or you don’t have an e-commerce channel, get one,” Murphy said. “It was time to get one yesterday.”
“Maybe what you sell doesn’t work online,” Murphy continued. “But if you’re not on social media or you don’t have a second phone line, or you don’t have a website and you can’t do e-commerce, you’ve definitely been impacted. And habits are changing.
“We all want to do local as much as possible,” Murphy concluded. “But if it’s not convenient to do local, then the business community is probably going to miss out.”
Murphy stressed tools are available from the Small Business Development Center. Go to www.growin henry.com or call 521-7402 for more information.
In other business, the board authorized Murphy to seek a $4,500 grant from the Henry County Community Foundation for implicit bias inclusivity training.
“Several of us attended virtual training put on by the Shaffer Leadership Academy, based in Muncie and serving East Central Indiana,” Murphy said. “We would like to bring that training to Henry County, if conditions allow.”
Murphy said they are looking at both virtual and in-person training. He wants to invite local leaders, elected officials and those in the business community to attend.
Inclusivity issues have made headlines recently, not only locally with resolutions, but nationally. Wednesday night, well-known Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman thought he was off-mic when uttering what was reported as homophobic slur. He was suspended by the team and left the broadcast booth in the middle of a game after apologizing to his audience.
EDC board member and former elected official Nate LaMar wholeheartedly endorsed the training.
“I attended that first training a few years ago done by Shaffer Leadership Academy and it was a real eye-opener for me,” LaMar said. “I had done that type of thing as an army officer and then with a previous employer. I think the updated 2020 version is very pertinent. I wholeheartedly endorse it.”