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It has been well over a year since local businesses, industries and organizations were able to come together for an update on Darke County’s economic efforts. That wait came to an end on Aug. 4 when Darke County Economic Development (DCED) and Partnering for Progress held its Summer Mixer at Montage Cafe.
Mike Bowers, director, and Tamala Marley, workforce specialist, shared updates on their activities over the past year and where Darke County is heading with its current economic climate. Bowers also announced special awards, including naming Family Health as the Business of the Year for 2021.
“This goes to a well-deserved organization that has done phenomenal things and continues to do phenomenal things in the county in the healthcare field,” said Bowers. “I think they have positively affected every community in the county.”
Accepting the award were Jean Young and Jared Pollick. Young, the retired director of Family Health, shared the history of Family Health and what it has done over the past 49 years. The organization began caring for migrant farm workers, but it was quickly realized there were 3,000 residents without a physician and kept the facility open year round. Today, Family Health has 30,000 patients that walk through the doors 120,000 times each year. The organization has grown to include a pharmacy, pediatrics, women’s healthcare, vision and dental programs, laboratory, Women and Infant Children (WIC) program and radiology. Young said she is very proud of their addiction medicine and needle exchange programs.
Pollick, current director, shared that Family Health is the seventh largest health center in the state and competes with Cleveland and Columbus. Because of their size, Family Health was able to attract and will soon add a psychiatrist to its stable of programs. Very soon they will begin a rural county medicine program that will allow family medicine residents to train in the community.
In addition to Family Health, Bowers recognized Dennis Baker, Young and Jim Atchley for their service to the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC).
Marley gave an update on her activities that are expected to build a workforce from current residents. DCED recently held a Summer Manufacturing Camp for 20 seventh and eighth graders from six Darke County schools. The participants had the opportunity to grow skills that employers say are needed, including communication, problem solving and team work.
The workforce development specialist also shared that nine local students were recently presented with the 20 Under 20 Award. These students worked, co-oped or interned at local businesses in a variety of fields, including healthcare, diesel technology, electrical supply, construction, HVAC, IT and early childhood education.
Upcoming programs for workforce development is Manufacturing Day for local high schoolers on Oct. 1 and Junior Job Shadowing in November.
Bowers said his office wants to make sure that Darke County has a workforce going forward and is working in several areas to ensure this happens. “We are fortunate in this county to have a great work ethic,” he said. However, his office is working with several communities to make sure there is housing available for the workforce. Versailles and Arcanum are currently working on subdivisions and Greenville and Ansonia are also moving forward in that area. While new housing is important, Bowers emphasized that taking care of what you already have is important. He is currently working with the Darke County Commission to develop a Land Bank to clean up some of the properties that have been left in disrepair.
Darke County is also working towards better rural internet access. According to Bowers, COVID forced schools to use laptops, iPads and chrome books. Without reliable internet access, those tools lose their usefulness.