A new online tool, called Indiana Ag Asset Maps, has been created that shows county-by-county information on ag products grown there.
Connie Neininger, Business Development Director for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, explains why this is so important.
“We want to work with rural communities who are waiting for the next Honda plant to drop in their lap. As you know, it’s a challenge for these rural communities to attract heavy manufacturing. We want them to look in their backyards. What are the assets that are available to them? That’s what they can see on those ag asset maps, the agricultural assets. The livestock, the crops, the vegetables, the fruits, that are all grown within these communities and in these regions.”
Neininger, who has experience working as a local economic development director, says local economic development officers in Indiana are the primary target of these new ag asset maps.
“If they want to see what they have available as far as raw material to help increase processing, they can identify, ‘This is what we have. We have a strength in sweet corn. Let’s look at a company that processes sweet corn.’”
However, the ag asset maps are online and available for anyone to see, including agribusinesses.
“The existing companies, if they know they need a particular product, they can look at those maps to see where they can find that material, that raw material, here within Indiana. Also, if there are companies looking at Indiana and they need to know where to locate, they can look at those maps…if you locate next to your raw material, it’s cutting your operating costs, which will put more dollars into the pockets of the employees.”
The new Rural Economic Development Model was released in late October. Neininger says many rural communities have already reached out expressing excitement about the new maps and regions are banding together to add ag to their economic development strategies.