Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

February 19, 2014

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Jim Tidd upbeat on future economic development

County's greatest challenge: elevating education, skills of its workforce.

There’s an abundance of developable land at Grissom Aeroplex and along Peru’s north side off U.S. 24 — but there’s a shortage of buildings throughout Miami County that can accommodate companies seeking facilities.

Those circumstances amount to the biggest problem involving economic development in Miami County.

But the future is bright for growth.

Take it from James Earl Tidd, 60, the executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) since June 2005.

Tidd oversees attracting new business, retaining existing business, managing property, preparing budgets and developing the Grissom airport.

And in doing so, he faces what he says is the biggest challenge for economic development: the need for continued education and skills enhancement of the workforce.

“More and more, we are seeing that education level and skilled workforce are creeping higher and higher on the priority list of business and industry,” Tidd says.

“Employers today are not only looking for certain skills, such as welding, CNC [computer numerical control] machine operator, but for soft skills like problem-solving, teamwork, flexibility and thinking out of the box. Unfortunately, some of these soft skills are not taught or experienced in our schools because of the focus on test results to justify school funding.”

Tidd is wired to public education. His wife, Stephanie, is the assistant principal at Maconaquah Elementary School. They have two daughters, Erin, 17, and Julia, 14. (Tidd also has a son, Jason, 38, who lives in Texas.)

“Miami County and our region of north central Indiana have an abundant and somewhat skilled workforce based on our history in manufacturing,” Tidd says. “However, we need to continue to encourage our workforce to increase skills, become diversified and continue to meet the needs of our current and future employers. This drive for lifelong learning needs to begin as early as middle school.”

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