Press release from Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation
(Switzerland County, Ind.) - The Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded additional funding to support the work of the EcO15 initiative. Switzerland County will receive $260,000 as part of the Lilly Endowment’s second-stage grant for the EcO15 projects here, including the new Switzerland County Technology and Education Center. This grant is the result of progress made by Switzerland County in helping residents get the training they need for better job opportunities. The grants will enable the continuation of the EcO15 program, which began in 2007.
EcO15 is a regional initiative in ten counties in Southeast Indiana. In addition to Switzerland County, Bartholomew, Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, and Ripley Counties also form the EcO15 region.
The Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation manages the EcO15 project in Switzerland County. Corporation President Jon Bond also co-chaired the EcO15 Regional Council from 2008 to 2010.
“Today’s economy is tough and getting tougher when it comes to getting a job. The work we’ve done so far has been focused on building build a strong base of support for residents who want to learn new job skills, and to update skills they already have,” Jon Bond said. “The Community has made smart investments in the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center, and in the Switzerland County School Corporation’s Advanced Manufacturing program. The Lilly Endowment is giving us an important vote of confidence and encouraging us to keep going. I am grateful for their continued support.”
Jon Bond also recognized the many partnerships that have been formed to provide services and opportunities to Switzerland County residents as another factor in receiving additional funding. “WorkOne services will now be available in the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center so residents will not have to drive to Madison or Lawrenceburg to access them. We plan to bring Ivy Tech and adult GED classes to the TEC Center. Our discussions with Vincennes University and Western Governors University will bring those schools closer to us as well.
Jon Bond said that expanding companies today need three things: available land to build on, the money to invest in new facilities, and an available skilled workforce to fill new positions. “We can’t finish this puzzle with a piece missing. All three of these factors need to be addressed and we are addressing them in Switzerland County.”
The new EcO15 funding in Switzerland County will help start and grow three primary activities. First, funds will be used to jump-start adult college completion in Switzerland County. Next, the new grants will help fund activities and programs at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center. Finally, funds will be used to assist families of Switzerland County School Corporation students enrolled in Advanced Manufacturing programs at Switzerland County High School as they explore college opportunities for their children.
“The second-stage of EcO15 will not have as much flexibility as the first grant funds gave us, but we don’t need that flexibility any longer,” said Mike Busch, the county’s EcO15 project director at the SCEDC. “We are very focused on these three areas because for the last three years, they kept coming up over and over again as the most important goals to the community.”
The Lilly Endowment grant will also allow regional initiatives managed by the
Community Education Coalition (CEC) in Bartholomew County to continue. One initiative is the creation of a regional learning system based on project-based learning (PBL), and the continuation of the PBL Academy that has trained over 30 Switzerland County educators to date. Another area to be funded regionally is an examination of adult lifelong learning to determine the best ways to assist adults as they continue to improve their workplace skills.
“Lilly Endowment funded the establishment of EcO15 in 2007 because of the strength of the board and staff of the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County, the county’s community foundation, and the vision, dedication and collaborative spirit of the community, education and business and leaders in Columbus and Southeastern Indiana, demonstrated in part through the Community Education Coalition. The Endowment desired to help the region take fuller advantage of significant expected economic opportunities, said Sara B. Cobb, vice president of education at the Lilly Endowment.
Cobb continued: “Now, five years later, we are gratified to see all that has been accomplished. We are especially pleased to see the number of recent job announcements in the region, which show confidence in the availability of a future well prepared workforce, both now and in the future, which is due in part to the ongoing impact of EcO15. The cooperative efforts of the region’s community foundations, business sectors and the educational institutions have been key to establishing programs that mesh with the economic needs of Southeastern Indiana.”
Sara Cobb noted the work of the Community Foundation of Switzerland County, Inc. in the EcO15 initiative. “We also are gratified to see the important impact that community foundations have had in EcO15. For more than 20 years the Endowment has worked through its GIFT (Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) initiative to establish and strengthen community foundations all across the state. The Endowment is delighted to see them in action in ventures such as EcO15,” Sara Cobb said.
The Community Foundation of Switzerland County played a central role in bringing EcO15 funds to Switzerland County. Pam Acton, Community Foundation Executive Director, was thrilled to learn the community’s hard work has been recognized.
“We are so very grateful to the Lilly Endowment for their generosity and their vote of confidence. When so many communities are requesting so much money for different projects, being chosen to receive additional grant money because we’ve done very well so far is rewarding,” Pam Acton said. “ The EcO15 initiative in Switzerland County has been successful because the community foundation, the economic development corporation, the school system, our county government, and several other community organizations did something right. We worked together. We made this happen. The community leadership in Switzerland County has shown that we ‘get it’: our future depends on helping citizens to gain skills so they can meet the expectations of 21stcentury employers.
Another important goal of the EcO15 project is to create a seamless transition from high school to college. John Burnett, chief executive officer of the CEC, explained: “With this generous gift, the EcO15 second phase work can focus on breaking down barriers to learning by creating a redesigned framework for recruiting, educating and placing thousands of students. The goal is for students to move through high school STEM focused, project-based programs into postsecondary engineering, design, science, technology, production process, and logistics education programs in a ‘seamless’ manner, enrolling in college while still in high school. To complement their studies, it is hoped that students will gain internship and co-op experiences,” John Burnett said.
John Burnett also noted that despite progress made over the last five years, more students are needed in STEM programs. The region’s industries are looking to fill approximately 500-700 jobs in engineering, design, science, technology, production process, and logistics roles each year for at least the next 10 years.
For more information regarding the EcO15 initiative, please visit www.eco15.org or the Switzerland County EcO15 page on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Switzerland-County-EcO15/255996553322.