The Delaware County government office building in Muncie. (image provided)

Despite facing the uncertain economic headwinds of the pandemic, Delaware County officials say economic development “exploded” in 2021, measuring the highest amount of capital investments in county history. The county says it recorded $793 million in capital investments, a majority of which came from one project. In September, Poland-based CANPACK broke ground on an 862,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Muncie.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Delaware County Director of Municipal and Economic Affairs Brad Bookout called the full-year investment amount “incredible.”

“It’s a big deal in our community, [approximately] $793 million in committed dollars in investment in Delaware County in 2021, which is by far the largest single year investment,” said Bookout. “The amount of committed capital investment is unprecedented in counties of similar population size and even better than many larger counties throughout the state.”

Bookout says the announced projects create more than 1,000 new jobs for the county. Delaware County Commissioner James King says the success has exceeded the county’s expectations from when it built its economic development plan in 2015.

“We have the best economic development team in the state of Indiana and surrounding states,” boasted King. “I just can’t say enough about the team that we have here.”

As the nation locked down in 2020 in response to the global pandemic, economic development officials from Delaware County aggressively sought companies and other potential investors to take a look at the east central Indiana region.

“I had conversations with all of the commissioners, and they said, ‘take this time to start doing your homework. Make sure that you start to establish connections…to somebody that we’ve had some past conversation or, discussion with and let them know we’re still here,’” explained Bookout.

Bookout says that approach worked.

“Interestingly enough during the pandemic, those folks that we were reaching out to were sitting in their houses also, looking for things to do. So they, started responding,” said Bookout.

Delaware County Director of Municipal and Economic Affairs Brad Bookout.

While the CANPACK project, with its $490 million investment and 350 potential jobs, is the headliner of the county’s 2021 economic wins, Bookout says Italy-based INOX completed construction of its new $20 million, 149,000-square-foot facility this year. INOX is one of the largest stainless steel suppliers to the appliance industry.

The county says not all the investment stems from new construction. It also saw several longtime vacant buildings come under new ownership with redevelopment planned. In May, the owner of Myers Performance Engineering announced plans to establish its “muscle car” business and world headquarters in a historic building in downtown Muncie.

“We had a lot of buildings that a lot of people would say were blighted buildings, but the bones were good,” said Delaware County Commissioner James King. “The old, blighted buildings that we knew had the good bones, we want to put them back on the tax roll… with new construction, new businesses.”

Delaware County Commissioner James King

Bookout says the assessed value in the last five years increased by over $79 million in the county. From 2020 to 2021, assessed value climbed nearly $26 million in Delaware County.

While the county has lost big manufacturers over the past decade, including Borg-Warner, Delco Battery and the Ball Corp., Bookout says the recovery has been strong.

“We have put this county on the map in Indiana and we intend to continue to grow it in that fashion,” said Bookout.

Bookout explained in an interview with Inside INdiana Business some of the successes the county recorded in 2021.