Mike Ochs recently completed his first year as North Vernon’s mayor, and upon reflection said the job looks a lot different on the inside than it does from the outside.

“It’s one of those things that you just don’t know what it is all about until you actually experience it,” said Ochs, who defeated Mathew Hurley in the 2015 election, and became the first Republican mayor in more than 20 years when he succeeded the retiring Harold “Soup” Campbell.

After experiencing recent highlights of the city’s Christmas parade and lighting the town Christmas tree, the new year allowed Ochs time to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and look ahead to upcoming goals.

Ochs said that when he took office he quickly learned that the job involved many more aspects than he previously thought. The mayor said he also realized that maintaining the status quo in some areas was fine.

“I saw that there were already many good things underway and I wanted to keep those going without disturbing the progress,” Ochs said.

Downtown development

He cited continued progress on the Stellar Plaza and the Fifth Street projects, and said residents take a look at the improvements in downtown North Vernon.“Drive east on Walnut Street in the evening. The lights are dazzling. We still have work to do getting vacant buildings turned into active thriving businesses,” Ochs said.

A paved walking trail between Muscatatuck County Park and downtown North Vernon also been recently completed as part of Stellar work.

“I feel that these kinds of quality of place projects lead to a greater interest in this, my hometown,” Ochs said.

In a cooperative effort, North Vernon and the Indiana Department of Transportation recently secured the Hanson Quarry for use as a water reservoir. Ochs said that plan to improve and expand North Vernon’s water supply will also prove to be a great resource for industry growth and additional housing.

Focusing on business

Ochs said one of his goals is to attract new business investment to North Vernon and help current companies grow. The city had some success in that area last year.Michigan-based Midway Products Group, an automotive manufacturing supplier, announced in September that it would build a 200,000-square-foot plant in North Vernon that would start operations by the third quarter of this year and eventually create up to 150 jobs.

Michigan-based Metaldyne Performance Group, a global auto parts supplier, announced in October that it would invest $30.6 million to expand its footprint in North Vernon by leasing and equipping a 32,400-square-foot facility in the city, and create 126 jobs by 2019.

“People are looking to North Vernon as the kind of place they want to live, work and grow,” Ochs said.

The mayor noted that North Vernon Municipal Airport, which recently opened a large, multi-function transient aircraft hanger, is of great economic importance to the city’s growth.

Ochs added that he wants to showcase the North Vernon Panther Contingency Operating Base, operated by the Indiana National Guard. It is used by both Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center for training quick response teams, the U.S. Department of State, military, fire rescue and law enforcement.