Chamber works to grow area businesses; attract new ones

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The parking lot where Borders once stood is empty now, but once Whole Foods Supermarkets opens up, it'll be much busier.

Whole Foods will emply 100 people; part of the goal that county leaders are striving for.

"I don't know of a community that's doing it better than we are right now," said Jeff Rea, President and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

Rea and members of the Chamber are working to get more jobs to the area.

He said there has been some some success with manufacturing companies like Wellpett LLC, and Daman Products, but he admits more could be done.

"At the end of the day, people in our community don't want activity, they want results," said Rea. "So we're very results driven. Our hope is that the seeds we're planting today, can be harvested down the road."

St. Joseph County has seen nearly 100 million dollars in investment from local businesses this year, but with that, only a few hundred jobs.

Something, that has those living here optimistic, but certainly craving more.

"You have to get something new into the area that might help out more around here," said Charles Paseka, a steel fabricator.

Louise Null, a retired worker, shared that sentiment.

"I would like to see incentive for industry to be brought into this area, so we can employ people to earn a decent living to support all these restaurants and stores we already have too many of," said Null.

Rea said attracting new businesses only accounts for 10 percent of the Chamber's focus.

Most of the County's growth potential comes from businesses that are already in place.

"If we can't keep our existing, there's no way we attract new." said Rea 

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