Growing the economy of Jennings county is both a job and passion for Kathy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Economic Development Commission.

“We want our people to be able to live and work right here in Jennings County. In order to do that, we must grow the economy and jobs here,” said Ertel, a┬álifelong local resident who has worked for the Economic Development Commission since 1999, and as executive director since 2005.

The county’s economic development office — like others around the state — develops positive relationships with industrial leaders in an effort to attract businesses investment locally.

“We use every opportunity we can to acquaint business leaders with our community in hope they will see our community as a good place for their business,” Ertel said, adding that she and others from the Jennings County office often travel to state, national and international trade shows, where business leaders congregate to promote their businesses and search for communities suitable for new investment.

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“We work our tails off at those shows. The atmosphere is very competitive and you only have a few minutes to promote your community” Ertel said.

One such effort recently was Ertel’s international trip to Germany and France as a representative of the South Central Indiana Regional Corporation at the Stuttgart Engine Expo and the Paris Air Show. Representatives from regions across Indiana and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb also made the trip to France.

“The auto industry is important to everybody and there are many attributes the south-central Indiana region has to attract that industry here. And, Jennings County has the unique facility at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center that offers opportunities to aspects of the aeronautics industry. It’s all about letting them know we are here,” Ertel said.

She came away encouraged by what transpired.

“It went well. It was very productive,” Ertel said, although she added that she couldn’t comment about specific leads or companies because of confidentiality reasons.

Attracting economic investment doesn’t happen overnight, though, but rather is a building process, Ertel said. Attending trade shows and other events is a way to build relationships that can lead to future development and jobs.

“Businesses look at several things before they select a community and it is up to us to show them that our community has the right tools and skill sets to help make their business grow,” Ertel said.

A community’s labor force and housing are two important interests of potential investors, she added.

“I am very excited about things that are happening here. We have several programs underway that will improve our ability to attract new industries. I am very excited about the Mayor Ochs’ workforce development program,” Ertel said, adding that efforts are also underway to expand and improve Jennings County’s housing assets.