Wickersham Contributes to Panel

      The Huntington County Leadership Academy held its annual economic development panel discussion at Huntington Universities Habecker Dining Commons.  The pannel included John Hacker, president of the Huntington County Council, Ed Farris of the Huntington County Purdue Extension, Mark Wickersham, Executive Director of Huntington County Economic Development, Chris Hoke of the Huntington County Community School Corporation, and Kevin Willour of Beacon Credit Union. 
      The first question that was posed to the panel was, "How has the current economic conditions affected your sector and how are you working to fix it?"  Ed Farris responded saying, "Overall it was a good year for farmers in Huntington.  Grain farmers enjoyed healthy prices and average yields."  John Hacker responded, "The county is growing and jobs are coming in but the reassessment values on houses have taken a plunge and our budgets are taking a hit because of it."  The city and county both forecast their budgets based on the previous year's tax assessments.  Wickersham had a positive outlook for the future of Huntington saying, "When I came to work here three years ago we had 1.7 million square feet of industrial space empty and since then we have filled 1.35 million square feet of that space."  Wickersham also talked about how proud he is of Huntington for being such a friendly community.  "We would have never won Helena Chemical if it wasn't for everyone in the county being friendly and offering excellent customer service."  He said, "It was because of the service friendly attitude that they decided to locate here and bring 20 new jobs." 
      Looking back at 2010 financially, it was an excellent year for the local banking industry.  With reduced lending rates, banks have been able to to borrow money at a lower rate, which leads to higher profits.  "The cost of funds are possibly at the lowest rate in history," Willour said.  Overall, community and business leaders believe that 2010 was a productive year and that the county is slowly climbing out of a recession.