MOUNT CARMEL — The newest Mount Carmel Area Economic Alliance President and Chief Operating Officer has been busy introducing himself and sharing the organization's vision for the future of Wabash County.
Craig Newman, a Mount Carmel resident, succeeded Ben Ross as AEA president in February. Monday, he officially introduced himself to the city council and county commissioners, with hot-off-the-press AEA brochures in hand.
Newman joined the AEA Board of Directors in 2016 following his retirement as President and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, the third largest corn seed company in the U.S.
"The reason why you hadn't seen me before is because my office has been in Indianapolis for the last 22 years," Newman explained to city councilmen. "I would come home on the weekends, but I was traveling all that time."
Newman shared that he graduated from Purdue University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agribusiness Management. After graduation, he held sales and sales management positions for Procter & Gamble for 7 and 1/2 years. In 1979, he began his career with Akin Seed Company in St. Francisville, Illinois, and held several positions with Akin Seed, Callahan Seeds and AgriGold Hybrids and spent 38 years in the seed industry.
"Since I've retired from my career at AgReliant Genetics in June of last year, I was then interested in getting involved in the community and the business world within the community," Newman said.
The AEA has also experienced some changes during that time.
"We recently relooked at our purpose," Newman said. "The purpose of AEA is to create retention and expansion opportunities for local and new businesses in Mount Carmel and Wabash County."
The AEA currently has about 60 members from various industries and organization in the area, including Mayor Bill Hudson and City Clerk Rudy Witsman, whom attend monthly meetings.
Newman emphasized several priorities of the organization, including increasing the number of jobs in Mount Carmel by supporting local business who want to expand.
"Eighty percent of jobs that are developed in a community come from current businesses, so it's not as likely to get Toyota or somebody to come in — you can rely on your local businesses if you can support them," he said.
Another priority of the AEA is to create new jobs by recruiting new business, Newman continued. He said the AEA has been working with the Greater Wabash Regional Planning Commission and a new program in Illinois called CORE.
The third priority Newman shared was increasing jobs by encouraging young people to create businesses locally. This priority may ring a bell, as it is the foundation of what the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program was built on. Area high school students, both from Mount Carmel High School and Edwards County, just completed the third year of the program, which has been considered very successful.
"It's an outstanding program in the community," Newman said.
Supporting programs that promote shopping at local businesses, like the We Shift 10 program, has also been a priority. Lastly, Newman said the AEA prioritizes working closely with the city and county on economic development.
Mayor Bill Hudson said that the city and AEA are currently "trying to get a few things going right now, that will help things out possibly for the future.