Economic development push in small Indiana city paying off big t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Economic development push in small Indiana city paying off big time

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SALEM, Ind. (WDRB) -- A major economic development push in Salem, Indiana is paying off in big ways.

Last year, the city welcomed its first hotel. Months later it announced the building of a Walmart Supercenter. Now, city officials tell WDRB that Kimball International is expanding its Salem plant and adding 95 employees.

In the process, Mayor David Bower says they haven't forgotten about the city's small town businesses, offering assistance to businesses looking to grow and expand.

"I was in business for many, many years," said Bower who ran Bennett's Clothing and Shoes in downtown Salem for several years.

When Bower took office eight years ago, he knew he had to make up for major budget cuts. Instead of raising taxes, he decided to attract business.

"To increase your profits you either raise your revenue or cut your expenses," Bower said. "Hopefully a combination of both."

Bower said he didn't entice Walmart with incentives. Instead, he just used his sales skills, convincing the retail giant that Salem would be a "money maker."

After seven years of trying, Walmart finally agreed to build a supercenter in Salem. Salem shoppers will no longer have to leave town to do all their shopping.

"In the past, you saw a lot of folks going out of town," said local business owner Dwayne Dougherty. "All of a sudden it's like, we've got what we need here."

Dougherty owns H & R Bakery on Walnut Street. The bakery recently received assistance from the city in order to move into a bigger space. According to Greg Fitzoff with Salem Economic Development, the bakery received tax abatement help, infrastructure funds, technical and zoning assistance.

"The past 16 years, we've continued to grow every year, even through the Great Recession," said Dougherty. "There were times behind the scenes when we thought the deal was dead, and behind the scenes these guys -- as well as the realtor -- were continuing the work. They really wanted to see it happen."

Once a small city with little profit, Salem city leaders are now fiercely attracting business.

In addition to Walmart, the Cobblestone Hotel, and Kimbell International, Summitt Seed Coating will open a production facility in April. The company says they will hire 20 full time employees.

"These companies aren't coming here just because the mayor got them around a campfire and sang kumbaya. They came here because they think they can make a profit here."

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