Economic Development sees big news, new programs in 2017
2017 was a busy one for the Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation and some of the biggest news arrived in the final weeks of the year.
On December 18th, it was announced that the Belterra Casino & Resort would be sold to Boyd Gaming, of Nevada. As the County's largest employer, any ownership change at Belterra is a cause for concern for the community and something that we will watch closely. It could take six months or longer for the sale to be final. After that, Belterra and three other Pinnacle Entertainment properties will join Boyd's 24 casinos. Boyd Gaming is a well-respected casino operator in Indiana and across the country. The company has a long history in the gaming industry and a reputation for top quality facilities and clean management.
We added to our marketing efforts in 2017 by releasing our first promotional video. This online video was to introduce the community to people who had never been to Switzerland County before. Since the video's release earlier this year, it has been well received by prospective businesses. You can watch the video on our website at www.switzerlandusa.com. We hope to add a second video in 2018.
We welcomed a new tenant to the Markland Business Park in 2017, as Duke Energy moved into a warehousing facility in the Markland Center building. Duke is now well underway with their Markland Hydro Station upgrade. This project will amount to a $152 Million investment in Switzerland County and an additional 6.5 MW of locally-produced hydroelectric power.
The Duke project is only one of several large projects in our region. While this construction and new hire activity has pushed our unemployment rates down in the region, it makes access to training more important than ever. In 2017, we continued our work to make more workforce training available in Switzerland County, so that our residents can qualify for the best jobs, wherever they are and so businesses know that this is the community that can train the workforce they need.
The High School Equivalency program at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center had another successful year. In 2017, The TEC Center's High School Equivalency program led the region in enrollment. These classes are available to county residents without a high school diploma to prepare them for the High School Equivalency Exam. Congratulations to instructor, Nina Alcorn and our training partners, River Valley Resources on a great 2017! Once a student has received their HSE certificate, they can be matched with specific career training for high-demand jobs in the region.
The TEC Center has been approved by Indiana Department of Workforce Development as a training site for the Labor Institute for Training (LIFT). This will bring another option for short-term, skill-specific training to residents of Switzerland County. LIFT offers training in Advanced Manufacturing, Basic Workforce Skills Certifications, Basic Computer, Community Construction Career Readiness Collaboration (3CRC), IC3 Certification, Fiber Optics, JAVA, and Telecommunication/Networking. One advantage of LIFT over other programs is that the training can be offered to groups as small as five people. This allows people to take a course when they are ready instead of making them wait for a larger class to fill. Classes are available now.
Following the successful Coding Academy offered throughout the Switzerland County school system and at the TEC Center in 2016, a new computer coding program will be offered at the TEC Center this year. Coder Dojo is a global network of free computer programming clubs for young people. With the help of the Techpoint Youth Foundation in Indianapolis, we were able to make the TEC Center a Coder Dojo site. This is an exciting opportunity for young people interested in computer programming but we will need adult volunteers to keep it successful. Anyone with a computer coding background interested in serving as a mentor or volunteer can sign up on our website at www.switzerlandusa.com.
Best wishes to everyone for 2018 from the Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation.
President, Switzerland County Economic Development
Sheriff's Department upgrades 911 system, radios
The Switzerland County Sheriff's Office has had a very productive and successful 2017.
The Communications Center completed a 911 system replacement that will benefit all citizens of Switzerland County for many years to come. We have also deployed Phase I of a vital radio upgrade which will make communications more reliable for all emergency response personnel.
The implementation of the new pay matrix brought salaries in line with comparable law enforcement agencies, which allowed us to both attract and retain qualified deputies. Our new deputies bring with them a wealth of experience as well as personal ties to the community. The Sheriff's Office has also integrated several new staff members into both the dispatcher and jailer positions.
The Jail has partnered with multiple organizations to provide services, including counseling, for inmates with substance abuse issues. Also, in conjunction with the Switzerland County Probation Department, GED services are available for those inmates wishing to further their education and obtain their high school equivalency diploma. We have used inmate labor to finish much-needed painting and repairs within the building.
In 2018 we look forward to completing Phase II of our radio upgrade and the continued utilization of our inmate work crew for a variety of necessary projects around the county. We hope to attract new partners with whom we can exchange ideas for combating the pervasive drug epidemic within our community.
It is our continued goal to provide outstanding quality service to the residents and visitors of Switzerland County.
Chief Deputy, Switzerland County Sheriff's Department
SCER continues growth, expands training services during 2017
Switzerland County Emergency Response (SCER) has experienced a year with growth in multiple areas. Following the whirlwind start in 2016, the 2017 months showed continued growth in staff, patient care training, and equipment implementation. The department grew in June with staff adding 5 county residents as new Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Our original full time EMT has been in medic school this year and will begin running as a full time Paramedic on January 1st, 2018. An additional EMT will be graduating in June from Paramedic school, again increasing the level of care that can be provided to the seriously sick or injured patient on another shift each week.
The run volume continues to grow with an estimated 1,000 calls for 2017, many of those happening at the same time. This demonstrated the need for securing additional staff for the multiple calls and patients. In the late summer, SCER added a 12 hour per day, 6 days per week EMT or Medic to help with the additional patients. The local EMTs from our County Fire Departments filled these open shifts for growth. It was a great opportunity as the First Responder/EMTs were able to spend quality time learning the squads, learning new equipment and working with the medics, increasing their knowledge base and skill levels. All county EMS personnel are working well as they continue to develop into a team. It has been exciting to see the professional growth of so many this year.
One of the newest pieces of equipment that we have had the opportunity to receive came from a grant sponsored by Belterra. It is called the Lucas Machine. It does CPR compressions while working a cardiac arrest. All of the SCER staff has been trained to use "Lucas". Each chest compression is consistent and effective, allowing oxygen profusion to the vital organs of the patient throughout the cardiac arrest treatment. This single piece of equipment has made a huge change in the opportunity to survive the cardiac arrest. A huge thanks to Belterra for their consideration of the people in Switzerland County in their most critical time of life.
Another addition to the equipment upgrades were the addition of cardiac monitors with the capability of transmitting the patient's ECG to the hospital emergency department or cardiac cath lab. This can be done by the paramedic treating the patient or by an EMT who is not able to treat the patient on that level but can transmit the ECG to the doctor in the hospital who can direct if the patient needs to go to a hospital with a Cath Lab for immediate intervention, or if they should proceed to the closest hospital.
Some of the benefits found in 2017 were having the opportunity to join in with efforts from the other county entities. It has been a pleasure to work with the School Resource Officer in trainings for the teachers, the YMCA in aligning with them for CPR classes to be taught locally with staff from both departments. Mark Reed from the Health Department has been instrumental in helping to introduce us to the regional health efforts between the Health Departments, Hospitals and Emergency Medical Services in District 9, which includes the southeastern part of the state. Our Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC) has restructured this year and we have been working with their efforts as well. Eric Tuemler, our new Paramedic has been voted the Chairman of the LEPC, with Jason Chandler, one of the local EMTs as the Assistant Chair representing the fire service.
Jason has been doubly busy this year as we have produced a driver's training course to assure that all new staff that will be driving are safe and know emergency driving practices. To date, he has worked with 6 new drivers from the East Enterprise, Florence and Vevay areas.
2017 has offered an opportunity to use IU Methodist Hospital as our Medical Directorship. Dr. Bartkus and Medic Dave Clark, who manages the EMS departments, have been wonderful to work with, and have offered top of the line education and medical guidance to our service. I am so excited to have that quality of emergency medicine education and guidance that the teaching hospital provides.
Lastly, I wanted to thank the residents of Switzerland County for their overwhelming assistance with an unexpected situation. You may recall that I wrote a letter to the editor last fall regarding the need for linens for our patients. It appears that not all hospitals will replace the linens that the patient is transferred to the hospital ER bed on a one to one basis and the purchase of disposable linens was quite costly. We had a sheet drive since the fall and your response has been overwhelming! We so appreciate your support in bringing towels, blankets, sheets and pillowcases to be used on our ambulance cot. It has been fun to see how the cot is "dressed". When the patients comment on the printed sheets, we just let them know that it's neighbors helping neighbors. Thank you for being so generous to the service.
I appreciate the opportunity that has been given in allowing me to work with the wonderful residents and the public safety services in Switzerland County. It is an experience that I will never forget. Thank you for your support.