Successful Rural Communities Work Together
7 Jan, 2011By: Leslie Wagner
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In a recession where unemployment percentages have teetered between 9-10 percent of our population, growth and success within communities have appeared to be elusive. Economic development, cities, and local governments are scrambling desperately to market their regions and counties as a “Mecca” for companies searching for locations to relocate, expand or consolidate; some to even open their doors for the first time. Because larger cities provide a more readily appealing atmosphere, these companies are overlooking the rural communities in exchange for the seemingly larger customer and workforce base that cities can provide.
In a positive redevelopment, rural communities are learning to be more aggressive. Some are finding that, while they can’t compensate for the glamour, location, or size of a city, there are other ways of standing out in the crowd. One county in Indiana learned that listening to needs, developing relationships, and above all, working together as a community, can go a long way for companies looking for a place to call home.
Consider the New Jersey company, Munirè Furniture’s, recent experience in Gas City/Grant County, Indiana. Munirè Furniture was established in 1995 and has received “best” ratings for its furniture from parent book, Baby Bargains, in recent years. They have become one of the largest manufacturers of baby furniture in the USA and a major supplier for Burlington Coat Factory, Babies ‘R’ Us, and specialty stores across the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Over a year ago, Munirè Furniture, began looking to expand its business from New Jersey and Indonesia to open a new line of furniture entirely manufactured within the United States. The Grant County Economic Growth Council in Grant County, Indiana, located approximately an hour north east of Indianapolis, received a phone call from business owner, Munir Hussein, after he came across their website while researching the state.
In a collaborative effort not commonly seen within a county, both Grant County, Indiana’s City of Gas City Mayor, Larry Leach, and City of Marion Mayor, Wayne Seybold, joined Growth Council Executive Director, Tim Eckerle on a day trip to New Jersey to speak with CEO Munir Hussein. Of all the communities contacted for the project, Grant County was the only one to make such a united effort in visiting the company at their location. Despite the promise of 350 plus jobs by 2013 for whichever community was selected, both mayors worked together to be as adaptable as possible for the company instead of competing against each other. These jobs would also be an important gain for the state of Indiana.
After considering communities in three states, on October 1, 2010, Munirè announced the opening of its Gas City headquarters for its new furniture manufacturing plant, Echelon. They plan to invest a total of $5 million in the city for the purchase and equipping of its renovated 200,000-sq.-ft. building. Gas City will be providing up to $2.5 Million in economic revenue bonds as an incentive package. Once manufacturing begins, all products from the new plant will proudly display “Made in America.”
Seeing communities within Grant County, and counties like it, working together to attract and retain companies is an inspiration and example to not just the State of Indiana, but to the entire nation. Growth is not about individual success, but the successes that can be achieved together. That is what will make this nation, and the generations to follow, stronger and able to compete on a global level. As 2011 approaches, an important resolution would be to begin focusing on a community, a county, a region, a state and a nation as one whole piece, not individual parts separate from each other.