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As business booms, Hancock County works to attract residents

HANCOCK CO. Ind. (WISH) — Hancock County officials have announced hundreds of millions of dollars in new businesses moving to the county over past few years, but leaders believe a lot of workers are commuting in from surrounding counties.

County officials have launched a new initiative aimed at convincing more people to work and live in the Hancock County.

“We’ve seen just explosive growth,” said Skip Kuker, Hancock County Economic Development executive director. “We have a great deal of land that’s accessible at a reasonable price. We’re starting to get noticed from various companies.”

For the past four years, Kuker has led economic development, bringing in dozens of businesses to Hancock County.

“We’re really excited. With the transportation corridors, our Mt. Comfort Airport, a great workforce that we have,” said Kuker.

From the beginning of 2012 to the end of 2015,  companies agreed to invest about $588 million and bring more than 3,000 jobs to the county.

“In the next couple three months, you’ll see a lot going on, visibly from the I-70 corridor. Plus, we have a couple proposed things that we aren’t ready to announce yet that will up the job market here in Hancock County,” said Kuker.

BryBelly is will soon break ground off the Mt. Comfort exit. The eCommerce and product development company is moving its headquarters from Marion to Hancock County. It plans to build a 200,000 square foot warehouse.

“We felt like they [Hancock County] genuinely wanted us in their community. Offered us some really good incentives, and the location is fantastic. Right off of I-70. It was an easy decision in the end,” said Knute Lentz, BryBelly co-founder.

“We’re able to get technical employees easily, we’re about to get warehouse workers easily, and it’s just a good environment for growth,” said Jeffrey Smith, BryBelly co-founder.

BryBelly purchased enough land to expand again in the future.

“Our plan is to continue that growth. Because of that growth, we feel like we’re going to add about 5-7 jobs per year for the next 10 years. So 50-70 jobs is what we’re projecting over the next 10 years,” said Lentz.

Now that business is booming, county leaders want more people to call Hancock County home.

“More people are commuting in. We’d like to have them become parts of our community,” said Randy Sorrell, a Hancock County councilor.

The county added a real estate expert to their council of economic development. Now, the county pitches business leaders to move their families to Hancock County, along with their companies.

“Hancock County has really good schools. We have low taxes, we have low crime rate. It’s a great place to live,” said Sorrell.

The county is also working with local businesses to add more infrastructure and utilities to rural areas.

“That brings the availability of the potential of water and sewer service to rural parts of our community. That may help spur some residential development in places that we want them to go. It’s about trying to create these public and private partnerships that may benefit the builder, the homeowner and benefit an area that we want to maybe redevelop,” said Kuker.

While leaders say they’re thrilled by the companies moving in, they know it’s people who are vital to the county’s success.

“Fresh faces, fresh ideas, new perspectives. Different perspectives. Communities: they constantly need to be rejuvenated to grow,” said Sorrell.

County leaders said bringing more people to Hancock County will in turn bring in more business, because it gives companies a bigger talent pool to pick from.  Plus, more infrastructure and utilities throughout the county will be incentive for incoming companies as well.