DARKE COUNTY - Partnering for Progress (P4P) held a quarterly meeting for investors in Darke County’s economic development Friday morning, during which they honored long-time member, and former president, Phil Garbig, who recently announced his intent to step down from the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) board.
“From my early involvement to the present, the economic development and workforce initiative has moved light years,” Garbig stated. “It is very satisfying to see all of the communities of Darke County working together, hand in hand for the best interests of the county as a whole.”
Garbig became a member of the Darke County CIC board in 2005, when the group was still in its formative years and met only every other month. During his time on the board, Garbig also served as president of the board.
According to Garbig, the Darke County commissioners wanted to increase the economic development activity in the area, driving the Darke County CIC to become more active.
Partnering for Progress is what eventually came of the commissioner’s desire to increase economic development in Darke County, Garbig said, as they hired a consultant to come up with a way for Darke County government to partner with private enterprise to stimulate economic development.
“This was the genesis of the Partnering for Progress initiative,” Garbig stated in an email to The Daily Advocate. “Individuals, business owners, private industry representatives and the Darke County Board of Commissioners began to be engaged in a flurry of activity promoting economic development in Darke County. This generated the idea that the Darke County CIC needed to be reorganized in such a way that private enterprise and the government of Darke County needed to be ‘partnered’ in the ongoing program.”
The commissioners made funding available for the new partnership through real estate conveyance fees, Garbig recalled, and a “substantial uptick of contributions from private enterprise.” Following this, the Darke County CIC and P4P would see “exponential growth,” Garbig said, and led to hiring a full-time director for economic development in Darke County. After a national search, Marc Saluk was selected for the position.
“Although we didn’t know it at the time, Marc had boundless energy and was very creative and able to think outside the traditional box that we had previously worked in,” Garbig stated. “His constant interaction with our industrial and business partners became contagious. Countless hours were devoted to the program by not only the paid staff, but members of the Darke County community.”
The partnership helped lead industry leaders in Darke County to realize the energy being put into economic development, and they became involved as well, Garbig reported. The Darke County CIC board was expanded to include members from all facets of Darke County’s economic community, including government leaders, business leaders, and educational leaders, Garbig said. Successes began to come in “bunches,” and “lots of energy was coming from lots of people,” Garbig reported.
CIC leaders discovered that a workforce initiative in Darke County was sorely needed to ensure long-term success. Saluk teamed up with Gracie Ratliff, Darke County Job and Family Services; David Peltz, Greenville City Schools; and other Darke County educators and industrial leaders, to help the workforce initiative gain traction.
Those early efforts definitely afforded the workforce initiative traction, leading to where it is today - a partnership between Darke County’s government, education and private business, successfully training underskilled, underemployed and incumbent workers, and the emerging workforce, Garbig noted. The initiative grew in both size and importance, leading to the employment of former Mississinawa Valley Local Schools’ superintendent, Lisa Wendel, to act as a liaison between Darke County’s schools and industry leaders to provide training for both adults and high school students, Garbig continued.
“I feel extremely blessed to live in a community where a large number of people are willing to devote their time and talents to efforts that are sustaining and growing Darke County economically for the foreseeable future,” Garbig said.
Other matters discussed during Friday’s Partnering for Progress quarterly meeting were the Darke Economic Foundation, which provides economics education to Darke County educators to ensure an on-going common-sense approach to teaching economics in Darke County classrooms, said Joel Sink, program director.
Marc Saluk, Darke County Economic Development director, gave an update on the current workforce development initiative, stating that the pieces are falling into place nicely, and while it’s a complicated system, it all ties in together, reaching Darke County’s underskilled and underemployed for training; developing programs to ensure Darke County’s emerging workforce will be ready for the paths they choose for their futures; and partnering with local industry leaders to provide training for incumbent workers.
The county will continue to make workforce and economic development a regional partnership, Saluk noted, with Darke County “fully vested” in a partnership with Mercer and Auglaize Counties to reach students and give them opportunities “right here at home,” through HometownOpportunity.com, Saluk said.
Partnering with surrounding counties is a matter of sharing information, training and ideas for growth, rather than having to “constantly re-invent the wheel,” Saluk said.
For more information on Darke County’s economic or workforce development efforts, contact the Darke County Economic Development office at 937-548-3250 or visit www.DarkeCounty.com.