he 2014 numbers are cause for celebration in Jackson County’s economic development circles.

The $175 million in promised investment was the result of 15 projects, which would create 294 jobs and retain more than 4,600 jobs.

The promised investment total is the second-highest on record, said Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp.

“We have truly been blessed to have some wonderful companies, growing companies that have great products, and they continue to invest and add people,” he said.

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Promised investment is the amount new or existing companies say they plan to invest in manufacturing space and equipment in an area over a given period.

The impact in a rural county like Jackson is tremendous, Plump said.

“We’re a rural county. We’re not a metropolitan county. We do not border on a metropolitan county,” he said. “If you think of the impact that the investment has, it affects everyone. That affects the tax base. That keeps the tax base low. The jobs that are created and the jobs that are retained, they pay taxes.”

This comes one year after the county achieved its highest level of promised investment, $177 million.

Since the economy bottomed out and new investment was $22 million in 2009, the county has experienced an upward trend. In 2012, it hit $159 million — the first time exceeding $100 million.

From O&k American Corp. in January to Golden Endeavors in November, several companies in the county announced investments in manufacturing space and equipment and the addition of employees.

May was the busiest month for announcements. The investments — from Aisin USA Manufacturing Inc., JLM Pharmatech, Excel Manufacturing, Cummins Inc., Aisin Drivetrain Inc. and Aisin Chemical Indiana LLC — topped $125 million and promised more than 160 jobs.

In recent years, three companies along Industrial Way in Crothersville have expanded facilities and employment numbers.

In August, Aisin Chemical shared the good news of its $30 million expansion project and addition of as many as 100 jobs.

“The Aisin companies and their expansion … they are a great friend to the community,” Crothersville Town Council President Ardell Mitchell said. Aisin Drivetrain Inc. and Cerrowire also are in the industrial park.

About a month later, the town announced it was going to spend nearly $786,000 to extend a road in the industrial park, providing two ways in and out of the area.

There also will be improvements to the railroad crossing at the industrial park’s entrance. Federal grant money received this year will be put toward that project and the road extension.

“It’s a unique funding opportunity the town was able to take advantage of,” Mitchell said. “It is able to provide life-safety improvements.”

Expansion of the industrial park opens up additional acreage for future development, Mitchell said.

“That single gesture shows so much confidence in what more we have potentially in front of us that we need to take advantage of to realize that potential,” he said. “It validates us. They see the bigger picture of what potential we have.”

Mitchell said he is grateful for the work of Plump and his staff in helping to spur job growth all over the county.

“His contacts and his skills at getting people here to look is the biggest reason for our success,” Mitchell said. “Those trips overseas (to Japan) and his work efforts, his work ethic in that office and his staff truly does represent our county.”

Having a good workforce helps, too, Mitchell said.

“I don’t think Aisin and Cerrowire would be even maintaining their presence if they didn’t have a quality workforce” to draw from in the area, he said. “That’s a big part of it. That ability to attract those workers has got to be a part of the equation.”

Moving into a new year, Mitchell expects good things for the county. He said he knows of industrial owners that have acreage yet to develop, and he hopes that leads to projects and jobs.

“I think the progress of the last year is best reflected in the faith and hope everyone has in the future,” he said. “It’s only going to get more competitive for businesses and employers in the future. But I know if we do work at it, we’ll have success that we had in 2014.”

Last week, Valeo Lighting Systems said it would invest $10.9 million in new manufacturing equipment and add 18 jobs at its Seymour facility.

That announcement by the county’s second-largest industrial employer isn’t included in Plump’s numbers for 2014, which run through the end of November.

But Plump said it’s a good way to end the year and give the county a good start on next year’s promised investment.

“We’ll have to see what ’15 brings,” Plump said.

By the numbers

Promised investment in Jackson County

2014;$175 million

2013;$177 million

2012;$159 million

2011;$81 million

2010;$66 million

2009;$22 million

2008;$58 million

2007;$37 million

2006;$54 million

2005;$68 million

2004;$53 million

2003;$52 million

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.