By James King, Delaware County Commissioner—
DELAWARE COUNTY, IN—As a lifelong resident and longtime elected official in Delaware County, I have watched the evolution of manufacturing throughout our region. When I was young, our community was proudly connected to the auto part manufacturing industry and had a rich history of hard-working men and women who dedicated their lives to advancing that industry. With the North American Free Trade Agreement, we watched as jobs slowly consolidated and moved to China and Mexico. Our community is all too aware of the effects this has had on each and every one of us.
By the time I was elected Commissioner, the factories that fed the families of Muncie for generations were nothing more than acres of concrete rubble. The jobs and the tax base were gone. I was part of a dedicated local team of many people who set out in 2015 to change this course. We’ve had incredible successes and not only attracted new industry, but we have worked with them to build new factories.
CANPACK is by far the largest building constructed exceeding 800,000 square feet and costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars. They have hired nearly three hundred workers and are reporting from top down an average wage of $27 per hour. It is undeniable that this facility is playing a part in replacing the antiquated demolished factories from our past. Many locals worked hard to make this happen. Many families’ livelihoods are now dependent upon the men and women who are employed at this facility. I’m proud of the new opportunities that many of our residents now have.
I do find myself concerned about statements and actions to diminish the efforts of the companies that chose to locate here. I ask myself where were the dissenters when the old factories left? Did they ever try to help revive the vacant industrial sites where the old factories once stood? Do they put food on the table for hundreds of families in Delaware County? I know for sure that they played no part in helping to attract and locate CANPACK to our community. We all know that history repeats itself—and we should be cautious not to repeat the mistakes.
It’s important to know that CANPACK is helping to bring back a strong well-paid workforce. They have replaced a chunk of the industrial tax base with a modern state-of-the-art facility. The jobs put food on the table and pay for our kids’ education. The tax base will pave our roads and help keep public safety officers on the streets. The company (like any multinational corporation) has facilities and employees with various expertise from all over the world. As a welcoming community we should embrace the diversity and the opportunity to increase our global competitiveness.
As an elected official, I welcome these firms, their investment, and the opportunities they bring for our residents.