Former commissioners honored for Foundation foresight
Citing the foresight of the 1996 Harrison County Board of Commissioners in establishing a foundation to invest and distribute the income from a $5 million gift from Caesars Indiana, Paul Beckort, chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, chose that board to receive the 2002 President’s Award for Community Service.
Former commissioners Ed Emily, Terry L. Miller and Kenneth Saulman (now a councilman) accepted the honor during a standing ovation by the 340 who attended the Chamber’s annual dinner Thursday evening at Caesars’ in Bridgeport.
Beckort said the commissioners, by forming a temporary board to accept the gift and then establishing the rules by which the permanent Foundation would operate, made a “lasting and significant contribution” to the well-being of the community.
“This positive impact on our community will last forever,” Beckort said, because only the earnings of the Foundation can be given away, not the principal.
The Foundation now has assets of nearly $23 million, and the Foundation’s 21-member board has given more than $5.5 million to 110 non-profit groups or government entities and scholarships since its formation in 1996, Beckort said.
Stepping briefly to the podium, Saulman spoke for the three honorees. “Not too many times do you see a politician speechless, but tonight I am,” he said, thanking Beckort for the recognition.
“We thank you for your foresight,” Beckort replied.
Each of the commissioners received an individual plaque, with this message: “In recognition of the 1996 Harrison County Board of Commissioners for the creation of the Harrison County Community Foundation.”
Still another plaque with the same inscription was given to the board for display. “I hope this plaque hangs on the wall of the courthouse for a long time,” Beckort said.
Beckort next introduced the Chamber’s new president, Jeffrey L. Davis, chief financial officer for Harrison County Hospital in Corydon.
Davis, an armchair historian, welcomed the crowd and quickly traced Harrison County’s nearly 200-year history, beginning in the early 1800s when Corydon was the First State Capitol through the riverboat and railroad heydays to the bustle of travel and trade brought by Interstate 64 in the mid-1970s.
“Since 1970, our population has increased 70 percent, from 21,000 to 35,000,” Davis said, reading from a seven-page text. “Also, the proximity of the interstate was a key factor in attracting all the industry that has located in the county in the past 25 years …
“So, as they say, everything eventually comes full circle. And today one of our greatest resources is from riverboats, one in particular, known as Caesars Indiana here at Bridgeport, which is once again thriving.”
Then, Davis grinned and said, “I bet right now you are thinking, ‘What is the point?’ ”
And, to relieved laughter, he proved there was one:
“Throughout the history of this county, there have been good times and bad times, booms and busts, high hopes and disappointments. But regardless of the circumstances, the people of Harrison County have worked together, promoting progress, facing new challenges, overcoming adversities, and improving the quality of life for themselves and the generations to follow.”
He challenged Harrison Countians to continue to work together for the common good. To accomplish that goal, Davis introduced several Chamber initiatives for the coming year, including economic development primarily through the public-private partnership with county government.
Chamber director Darrell Voelker welcomed guests and gave the Chamber’s 2002 report highlighting membership, tourism, small business assistance and economic development through business development, existing business expansion, and a job training program initiated this year.
“This customized training program includes a curriculum established from the direct needs of employers,” Voelker said, adding that six companies participated. “Harrison County is one of only a few counties in Indiana that are offering this program.”
That news played well with Tim Monger, executive director of the Indiana Dept. of Commerce and guest speaker for the Chamber event.
Applauding the economic accomplishments of Harrison County, Monger touted the governor’s “Energize Indiana” proposal and tax restructuring during the last legislative session as solid foundations on which to build economic development.
“Forty-four other states are wrestling with deficits,” he said, adding: “We’re the fourth lowest.”
Keeping in mind that governments need to “act locally to compete globally,” Monger explained that 12 regional offices have been established around the state to provide a closer link to promote economic development. It’s similar to how a bank branch operates.
“More and more decision-making will be done at those regional offices,” he said.
Quoting Michelangelo, Monger closed with a bit of advice for the business community:
“The greatest danger is not that we set our sights too high and miss, but that we set our sights too low and make it,” Monger said.