Merry Christmas to and from the EDC

Business leaders and elected officials celebrated the 2023 holiday season with a special Christmas breakfast Thursday.

The New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) December meeting took place at Primo Restaurant in New Castle, with a buffet menu of eggs, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit and Jack’s donuts for dessert.

EDC board members and guests sipped coffee and orange juice while they heard a presentation from Justin Helman about a new year-long partnership in Henry County.

Helman has been contracted by the EDC and the East Central Educational Service Center (ECESC) to be a career coach liaison between Henry County schools and businesses until June 2024. Helman’s contract is funded through the ECESC, courtesy of a Indiana Department of Education 3E (Explore, Engage, Experience) Grant.

Helman is the president and executive director of FocalPoint Business Coaching and the 2024 board president of the New Castle-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

His presentation at Thursday’s breakfast was titled “What the heck is a career coach liaison?”

Helman said his role is to connect employers to future workers and students to future job opportunities. He likened his role to the egg yolk that holds everything together in a cake.

He quoted industrialist Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

“Right now, we’re just starting with the ‘coming together’ part of this,” Helman said.

Helman said Thursday he is working with local schools to translate the new Graduation Pathways requirements into post-graduation results. The goal of the Graduation Pathways is to get Indiana students interested in whatever they want to do after high school.

“We’ve got to be able to transition. How do we get local employment to be able to have conversations with these students and their Pathways?” Helman said. “What we want to be able to do is get in front of these children and have these conversations before they get to the point where they’re 40, like me, and thinking ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’”

The NCHC Chamber of Commerce has worked for the past three years to connect young people and local jobs at the annual Career Day. The event takes place the first Friday in May.

Previously, Career Day was at the Arts Park Pavilion in downtown New Castle. Helman said the May 3, 2024 jobs event will take place at the New Castle High School Fieldhouse and parking lot.

In a Dec. 9 blog post, EDC President Corey Murphy said, “Connecting schools with businesses and vice versa is a long-term strategy to build community prosperity.”

One of Helman’s goals is to get 50+ Henry County businesses to complete a local School-Industry Connection survey. The survey link can be found in the EDC blog post at https://growin career-coach-liaison/.

Helman, the EDC and the ECESC hope to use the survey results to “help today’s youth for tomorrow’s workforce.”

To learn more about the new career coach liaison program, send an email to jhelman@focalpoint

EDC report

In light of the festive spirit, EDC President and CEO Corey Murphy aimed to keep his monthly report short, with a “Merry Christmas” to the EDC members.

First, though, member Dale Cole asked for an update on the planned Cobblestone hotel on S. Memorial Drive in New Castle.

Murphy said the $10 million project is still looking for a $3 million local investment.

“We’re still looking for the $3 million,” Murphy said. “The project is certainly not dead, but it’s certainly really slow in terms of finding investors to invest in that.”

Anyone interested in investing in the Cobblestone project can contact the EDC at 765-521-7402.

Murphy said there is another potential mixed-use development just south of Interstate 70 on Ind. 3 that could include a hotel.

He said that project has applied for funds from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI).

Henry County is part of an eight-county region that is applying for up to $75 million in state funds.

“We’re really early in READI,” Murphy said. “Our regional plan is due in February. The state will make regional funding allocations in May. And then the state will also begin to identify projects that will receive funding in the May-June-July timeframe.”

Murphy said 24 projects were submitted from Henry County. The list will be refined to 10 and will be further trimmed down to the top three to five local projects.

“The projects that were submitted don’t go away,” he told the EDC. “But when the state comes to do the site visit with our region Jan. 10, we don’t want to overwhelm them … We want to say ‘Here are our Top 10 projects’ [with] a couple from each county.”

Murphy expects to see READI funding a lot of residential projects across the state in 2024. In those situations, the READI money could improve infrastructure and the private investments in building new homes could serve as local match dollars.

Before the meeting adjourned, New Castle City Council President Rex Peckinpaugh, on behalf of Mayor Greg York, made sure the EDC thanked New Castle Main Street for the downtown Christmas decorations and the NCHC Chamber of Commerce for a successful Christmas Walk. The EDC members agreed with a round of applause.

The EDC board will not meet in January. The next meeting is 7:30 a.m. Feb. 8, 2024 in the Henry County REMC Community Room.

– Story by Travis Weik (Editor@TheCourierTimes.comof The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at