Economic outlook optimistic in Ripley Co.

Wanda English Burnett

While economy woes dominate the nightly news, a group in Ripley County has been steadily working to make the local economic forecast much different.

Gary Norman, Ripley County Economic Development Corporation director, has been exploring every avenue to align Ripley County with others to bring not only new growth, but to expand existing businesses.

The annual meeting of the Ripley County EDC was held last Tuesday, November 9 at the Southeastern Indiana REMC training center in Osgood. Those attending heard economic updates such as the progress of new endeavors, the addition to present companies as well as a financial loan program and the Cincinnati market.

The Pike Lumber Company project is near completion and hopes to be in their new facility at Milan by January 2011 at the latest.

The Belletech project at the Versailles Industrial Business Park is still coming, according to Barry Lauber, president of the Ripley County Redevelopment Committee. Since the product made by this company is tied directly to the auto industry, Honda Manufacturing in Greensburg, specifically, the timing of its arrival in Versailles is contingent on the auto economy.

A very exciting opportunity for a strong company to locate at the Osgood Industrial Park was announced. Since the financial details are not complete, the name and nature of the business was not released. However, it promises to be a community friendly company bringing not only employment, but investment opportunities as well.

Upgrades to existing businesses:

J&J Packaging of Sunman was honored for their commitment to Ripley County for a new expansion project that will add 50 new jobs by 2013.

“We’re very glad to be in Sunman,” noted Jim Hudgins, operating manager of the carton division at J&J Packaging, a provider of contract packaging services.

The new addition directly involves the gift card packaging division. The company will invest more than $2.5 million to upgrade its existing facility in Sunman.

J&J Packaging currently employs 500 associates full time and at its peak sees more than 1200 employees coming into the small town of Sunman.

“It’s great news to hear a good corporate citizen like J&J Packaging is able to land a major account that will add 50 new jobs that will benefit the citizens in and around Sunman,” noted Wayne Jenner, Sunman Town Council president. “We feel very fortunate to have them as part of our business community.”

A press release from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation noted they offered J&J Packaging up to $200,000 in performance based tax credits. They also offered up to $40,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. The Town of Sunman will consider some property tax abatement at the request of the Ripley County EDC.

“We’ve been with you from the beginning,” Jenner told Hudgins at the annual dinner meeting. “We’re very proud of you.”

The Sunman company was founded in 1987. “Many items people purchase everyday are packaged in Sunman,” Hudgins told the Osgood Journal. For example, they package 1.3 billion batteries annually.

Another company that has been a great community asset for the past 44 years is Ohio Rod Products.

They are gearing up for two new product lines that will create up to 33 additional jobs at the Versailles plant.

Terry Elkins, quality manager, told the Osgood Journal the existing line of fasteners sizes 6-21 to 5/8-18 is expanding to 3/4-10 to 72" in length. They are also adding a closed die heading.
The company will invest more than $3.1 million for the expansion.

ORP is a manufacturer of metal fasteners for customers in the electric motor, wire and cable, material handling, automotive and construction industries.

ORP partnered with the Town of Versailles for a grant from the City of Lawrenceburg’s Regional Economic Development Grant program. They have received $500,000 and $160,000 in performance tax credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The importance of working together was a common theme throughout the evening.

Norman told those gathered that any success in his office is the result of the whole county coming together. He thanked everyone involved in helping the county grow including all the commissioners who were all in attendance and county council members along with town government leaders.

Moving forward:

The Ripley County EDC is involved with the Southeast Indiana Growth Alliance, I-74 Business Corridor, Vincennes University Project (working with the Southeastern Career Center to offer classes from Purdue in Versailles) and the Cincinnati Market.

Highlights from 2010 included the Ripley County EDC joining the Cincinnati USA Chamber. This partnership could foster potential growth for the county.

One prospective business owner looking at Ripley County said the county has so much to offer. He was most impressed with the willingness of people in leadership positions who are working diligently to bring employment opportunities for local residents.

He had high praise for Norman and others saying, “You have great leadership - we would be proud to be a part of this community.”

Watch for upcoming announcements about this new business in the coming weeks in this paper.