The City of Logansport and Cass County, Indiana
Proactive in problem solving
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Cass County and City of Logansport, Indiana for our focus on Economic Development in the U.S.
The immortal words of American Businessman Arnold Glasow “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, the virus hit Cass County, whose seat is the City of Logansport, hard. “Cass County has kept moving forward thru the pandemic,” says Ryan Browning President of the Cass County Commissioner. “The Cass County Health Department has led the charge with testing and vaccinations while still maintaining full services.”
According to Cass County Health Department (CCHD) Administrator Serenity Alter, “The County joined forces with our local hospital to open one of the first provider staffed COVID respiratory clinics. This clinic provided outpatient care for potential COVID-19 patients, which helped reduce the number of COVID patients needing to be hospitalized.“
Cass County remained proactive for their community as well as surrounding counties by opening their own testing center off site from the hospital, as well as setting up testing in places throughout the community. “From the beginning, the Cass County Health Department had support from our local nursing homes, schools, law enforcement, first responders etc. ” says Alter. She worked with the area nurses to educate best practice for COVID-19 testing, quarantine, as well as CDC/ISDH recommendations and guidelines. The community schools continue to be an active part of our COVD Clinic as they are able to do testing on-site of the schools.
When vaccines became available, CCHD turned a portion of their testing site into a vaccination zone.
“We have been very fortunate as a health department to be able to staff both clinics with funding provided by federal grants,” says Alter. The Clinics provide testing and vaccinations to Cass County as well as surrounding counties. The Cass County Health Department has provided vaccination clinics in the community schools throughout Cass and surrounding counties to provide vaccines to all students 12 years of age and older and plan to continue the vaccine clinic as long as possible.
“We put all our differences aside and worked together to get ahead of a situation that still shows its effects to this day,” Logansport Mayor Chris Martin shares. “We are continuing to do great things and we’re just getting started.”
“We wanted to make sure the businesses that we have weather this storm,” says Cass County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Cuppy. “We put together what we call a small business forgivable loan program, focused on things like rent, lease payments, utility payments, insurance payments, and marketing expenses, and awarding a total $250,000 to 50 businesses in the form of $5,000 grants. We believe it did help many businesses that either could not qualify for PPP or needed the money for things besides personnel expenses. We were able to use our economic development income tax dollars to do that, and we recently got reimbursed by the CARES Act money. I think we put the funds we had to good use and it did help retain several businesses.”
As schools turned to virtual learning, the county saw the need for rural broadband access for all citizens. “We approved a public/private partnership with Miami-Cass REMC using CARES Act monies are to deploy 114 miles of fiber, creating a fiber ring around the entire county,” says Christy Householder, Director of Economic Development for Cass County. Not only will this provide better access to online education for the local school districts but access for online business, farm applications, and healthcare through telemedicine visits will be greatly improved.
“Cass County became one of the first Indiana communities to become certified by The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Broadband Office as a Broadband Ready Community,” says Householder. “With this certification it sends a signal to the telecommunications industry that Cass County has taken steps to reduce barriers to broadband infrastructure investment by establishing a permit procedure.”
Cass County is home to 40,000 residents, 20,000 of which reside in Logansport, which calls itself a “micro city”. Being ideally situated with the state’s major cities less than two hours away and Chicago less than three, Cass County Indiana is the perfect spot for businesses to locate. Cass County’s major industries are food processing and light manufacturing, including spring production, agricultural and automotive. “The City and the County have been proactive in enticing development to our area instead of hoping developers just show up,” says Arin Shaver, Executive Director of the Logansport/Cass County Planning Department.
Cass County was successful in attracting a new company, Waels Sustainable Products, during the heightened restrictions of Covid-19. This company will create $110M in new investment to the community and create 90 new jobs. Cass County RDC also finalized plans, and started construction of a Fire Protection System in the Cass County Agribusiness Park. The System will have a 500,000 galloon elevated water tank and serve approximately 11 industries and 25 residences in the unincorporated town of Clymers, IN.
The City of Logansport has also seen multiple new entrepreneurial businesses, as well as some national chains pop up. In addition to these new developments Cuppy says, “Four of our city’s largest manufacturers actually doubled in size. Our investors are seeing that and they’re coming to Logansport and Cass County.” They have also enticed a developer to come to the county to reinvigorate their mall, now known as “The Junction”. “We created a TIF bond, kind of like a reverse abatement,” Cuppy adds. “It gave him the incentive to come to Logansport and redevelop our mall.”
The county is also investing in its future workforce. The Chamber of Commerce has an internship program with city council to pair college students from across the country with local businesses. “The students do the work to see if that’s the field they want to go into, and more importantly for us, selfishly, we’re trying to get people to learn about the businesses that are here,” says Cuppy. “So we hope that after they go back to college, they will want to come back to Logansport and Cass County to live and make their career.”
When it comes to housing, Cass County is also working to be proactive. As a rural county, housing stock is slim especially with the current markets. They have different initiatives happening throughout the county to promote new housing stock. Walton, a small town in Cass County has waived all utility hookup fees to get contractors to construct. Since starting this, the town of 1000+ has had many new houses built in just a few years.
The City of Logansport is trying to figure out the gap. “Sometimes it’s apartments, sometimes its higher end homes.” Says Cuppy. One project to note is Lexington Village which will be a 52 single-family home subdivision.
“When we started the planning process. We looked at this opportunity a bit differently,” says Arin Shaver. The City purchased the land and went through studies and surveys to determine the community’s need. Then a Public/Private partnership was formed to develop the subdivision. This partnership is now working on different funding mechanisms to start construction on the first phase of the project.
The City of Logansport is taking a similar approach to developing their downtown urban park, and to develop land along the Hoosier Heartland, the highway that runs south of Logansport and connects Lafayette and Fort Wayne.
Quality of life is very important to the city and county. Natural amenities such as France Park, an old quarry that services as the county’s park with miles of mountain bike trails, a beach, fishing pond, camping and access to the Eel and Wabash River, have led trail construction over the years. The county is currently working on connecting the 22-mile Panhandle trail to France Park, while their 29-mile, signed connector route from the Nickel Plate and Panhandle Trail was just finalized last year.
The city and county are also fortunate to have many social services that small rural counties don’t always have access to, like a public transit system and a robust food pantry system.
Looking to the future, Logansport and Cass County hope to continue to move forward, anticipate the needs of their residents, and fill in those missing gaps. Alter sums it up well, sharing, “In the future, we just want to continue to be able to meet the needs of our community and grow as the community needs to be grown.”
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AT A GLANCE
Cass County, Indiana
What: A county of 40,000 with the City of Logansport as the county seat
Where: Ideally located within driving distance of Chicago, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne
Website: www.co.cass.in.us & www.cityoflogansport.org