BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) – According to a new study, Bluffton is the best place to start a business in the entire state. A company called NerdWallet and a Marion University professor researched 99 places across the state.
Click here to read the full study.
“Any time you’re in a top ten of any list is a good thing, but to be number one in the state, I mean that definitely tells us that we’re doing things right here in Wells County and specifically here in Bluffton,” Executive Director for Economic Development for Wells County Chamber of Commerce Tim Ehlerding said. “To be compared against all of these other cities is really something special.”
To qualify for the study, cities had to have a population of at least 5,000 and at least 500 businesses. The overall scores are based on each city’s business climate and economic health.
“All of these come together to make this a good place to work, a good place to raise a family, and just a good place to be,” Bluffton Mayor Ted Ellis said.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things. When you step into Bluffton, you can really tell that it is a special place. The people are nice, they surround themselves with good people. They work together well. There’s a good work ethic here in Bluffton and here in Wells County as well. I think it’s a combination of a lot of positive factors,” Ehlerding said.
With a population of nearly 10,000, the city has the second-highest average revenue per business. It has around 1,000 businesses that have an average revenue of more than $5 million. Indiana Technical Installations is just one example of one of those thriving local businesses.
“Our main function is for security surveillance, web and graphic design, and IT services,” Co-Owner Chris Claghorn said.
It started in 2013 and works with companies from coast to coast.
“All the way from Fortune 50 customers in Omaha to car audio manufacturers in California,” Claghorn said. “With our background and our different experiences with large corporations, we’re able to do what a 10-20 person team can do with just a few employees.”
The company’s owners said both the city and the Wells County Chamber of Commerce have helped the business grow.
“We’ve noticed that they really try to reinvest in the community with other businesses,” Claghorn said. “They try to really look local in a way before they look outwards.”
Ehlerding also said a group of young professionals called Bluffton Now have been instrumental in driving business forward, especially in downtown Bluffton.
“It’s primarily a group of millennials that have come together to really develop the downtown area. It used to be some of the people that were maybe a little older were working on projects like that, and now we’re seeing that it’s these younger people are coming together to create a better tomorrow for Bluffton,” Ehlerding said.
The Wells County Chamber of Commerce is also promoting business development with a new program.
“The program that we’ve just initiated, Tiger Tank, is a great program. Basically, it’s a program where the community is going to surround themselves around a new business and help them in being successful. We celebrate when a new business comes on board, but we then also start really wondering why if they close early what went wrong. So, what we decided to do is put together a package that basically is going to help these businesses survive. I think that makes a statement about the community saying we want new business here, but we’ll even go over and above the normal to make sure that business is successful,” Ehlerding said.
The study also praised Bluffton’s affordable housing. The median monthly housing cost is around $570, making the city the second-most affordable place in the state.
“It’s a great springboard and it speaks a little bit to the quality of life, which is so hard to quantify but so important in economic development efforts,” Mayor Ellis said.
Both Ehlerding and Mayor Ellis said they’re honored by the recognition and call it good momentum for the future.
“The foundation that was laid over the last ten years or even the last twenty years are really starting to pay out here. Things like some of our industrial parks, things like the downtown redevelopment district that’s taken place, what we’re doing with utilities to make sure that we have the utility capacity to serve these new companies and these entrepreneurs and innovators that are coming into town. So, a lot of things have been going on and I think we’re starting to see the benefits of those efforts of our forefathers many years ago,” Ehlerding said.
“It’s more of a look back than a look forward, and it celebrates what has been done in this community to help encourage, promote, and incubate businesses,” Mayor Ellis said. “We have hard-working people. I think we have a culture that recognizes hard work and innovation and I think it’s just a culture of community where public officials and economic development officials all work together towards the same goal and it makes a big difference.”
Auburn, Warsaw, Decatur, and Angola also made the list’s top ten.