Dubois Strong works to attract talent, businesses


Dubois Strong has been keeping busy.

There are lots of committees, groups and meetings on different topics that are all looking to bring more businesses and more people to the county.

“Economic development means different things to different people,” said Dubois Strong President Ed Cole. “We’re constantly trying to define what economic development is in Dubois County, and how do we make it better in Dubois County. It can be a variety of ways.”

One plan that is underway is trying to entice young families to move to the area.

“We’re in the midst of it,” Cole said. “What we’re looking for is to bring people in to increase the population, to increase the tax base. We want to encourage people to come here.”

Dubois Strong has received funding from Radius and the Dubois County Community Foundation to offer $5,000 to 11 people who move here and stay for at least two years. It’s part of the “Choose Southern Indiana” pilot program in Dubois and Orange counties. The people will have to meet certain guidelines.

“I know some people think that $5,000 is not a big incentive,” Cole said. “But if you’re looking to move, if you already have that interest, this could make a difference.”

Though not the first attraction program in Indiana, the Radius program is the first rural, regional approach. Dubois County is offering this program to recruit out-of-state workers to relocate, while Orange County has set its focus on finding veterans to move to its county.

Radius partnered with Indianapolis-based MakeMyMove to use its platform and marketing services to help communities pitch their wares and attract new residents. Information and applications can be found at https://www.choosesouthernindiana.com.

Dubois Strong has had conversations with Orange County Fiber and Dubois REC and PSC concerning their efforts to get broadband to unserved rural areas. Orange County and PSC have been awarded federal and state funding to get this done.

For instance, Orange County Fiber is looking to install a fiber circle around the county, “and then run Wi-Fi off that ring to the areas that can’t get the fiber optic cables to,” Cole said. “They want to use the REC’s poles to string the fiber optic cable.” The method, called make ready, requires that the poles be able to handle the cable.

The REC poles on which Orange County and PSC want to attach must be able to support the cabling. That means that some of the poles may need to be longer, some may even need to be replaced. So Dubois Strong is looking for grant funding to help with that cost, Cole said.

To get grant funding, a study must show there is a need. “You have to do the study to prove that you need that,” he said, “and then you go out and try to get grants to make it better.” That study was done through Regional Opportunity Initiatives, which conducted a study in 2020 for its 11 counties, including Dubois. A section of the study focuses on Dubois County’s need.

So that process is moving, though it is a slow process.

“We’ve got good providers that are working on this, to be able to get this thing move forward. But what is frustrating to people is the time that it takes to do that type of thing,” Cole said. “It doesn’t happen quickly. There’s just a lot that goes into making this happen.”

Dubois Strong’ business attraction committee has been looking at projects sent out by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, to seek potential locations for new developments. These inquiries are from companies that are interested establishing their company or a component of the company in a place; site consultants go through proposed sites to see which ones would be a good fit for the company’s criteria.

One such company is an aerospace or aeronautical manufacturer that is looking for a space. The name of the company is being kept confidential; so the project is called Project Jane. Dubois Strong has worked with the Huntingburg Airport to submit for the proposal space the airport has on the southwest side of the airport.

Another project called Project Lithium involves seeking a battery manufacturer. For that, privately owned land near the Industrial Bypass Road just north of Ferdinand is being proposed.

So now, we are waiting to see what the response will be, Cole said.

“Most of these companies will look at multiple states. There’s probably hundreds of responses, multiple sites that are being submitted,” he said. “Our chances are not off the chain. But we’re giving it our best shot and see how it goes.”

Dubois Strong’s entrepreneurs and innovators committee is working on having more events at which local entrepreneurs and business owners can meet to network and help each other. And it is working with several partners, including both chambers of commerce. Elevate Ventures, Indiana Business Development Center and Radius Indiana will hold a pitch competition, at which a winning pitch will win a monetary prize to help make the idea into a business.

“These are meant to, to encourage entrepreneurs to start small businesses in your area,” Cole said. “You give essentially like a two to three minute presentation about your company and what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it, what your niches are, where you see you can grow the business.

“It’s the local version of ‘Shark Tank,’ only with a lot less money being talked about. But if you’re just opening a concept or if you’re just starting off, this could be a big help.” The details for the competition are not yet finalized.

Dubois Strong is also looking forward to holding annual events that had to be canceled last year due to COVID. Those include the organization’s annual meeting on Sept. 16 at the Huntingburg Event Center; the Tour of Opportunity on Oct. 13, when high school freshmen learn about different occupations by visiting workplaces; and the Agricultural Summit in November.

“A lot of times we do things that are not necessarily visible, and that’s OK,” Cole said. “There’s a lot of good things that we believe we’re good contributors to in the community.”

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