Whitley County Indiana
Manufacturing Community Responds to COVID-19 - Specifically for SMEs
Whitley County, primely located less than three
hours from Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis,
depends heavily on the continued success and
growth of manufacturing, which required a fast
response to COVID-19.
The Whitley Count y Economic Development
Corporation (EDC) is a single point of contact
for businesses in one of Nor theast Indiana’s
manufacturing counties and has Dale Buuck leading
as the Whitley EDC president.
Whitley County hosts an abundance of automotive
and medical device manufac turing in par t of
the United Sates with the highest per capita
concentration of jobs and wages associated with
manufacturing. The onset of the novel COVID-19
pandemic impacted current production operations
while simultaneously hastened the global reliance
on remote working and technology-based ways
of sustaining traditional manufacturing. Without
support of newer manufacturing technologies,
many companies are at risk.
Mitigating the Risk
The Whitley EDC added assistance and methodology
in helping by incorporating a true neighborly
approach. Like so many other economic development
agencies who were helpful during the pandemic
using loans, grants, PPE, reopening guidelines and
more, but the Whitley EDC was able to rally the
community to help.
The Whitley EDC believes in collaboration and the
theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. Especially
when larger corporate companies are willing to
help the mid-size and small manufacturers. An
open communication atmosphere allowed large
manufacturing companies to talk about lessons
learned and document their pivot strategies. While
some was specific to their processes, much of the
strategies can be modified for any manufacturing
The use of anecdotal and empirical data is creating
a “play book” for all Whitley County companies to
use and reference when major interruptions take
place in business models, pandemic related or not.
Beyond COVID: Industry 4.0
The COVID-19 and resulting economic crises of 2020
have highlighted the need for agile leadership and
critical decision making in the face of uncertainty and
adversity. Companies that used the COVID-19 forced
changes as an opportunity to grow and improve
have found themselves in a better competitive
position than companies that merely tried to
weather the storm.
The global economy of manufacturing is transitioning
to a new digital standard of production deemed
Industry 4.0, based on automation, hyper-connection
of devices, and real-time data-driven decisions.
Whitley EDC will continue to help their companies
identify opportunities for Industry 4.0 technology
adoptions and newly required work skills. In response
to the evolution of the Industry 4.0, company
leadership will be guided to develop a culture
of innovation and provide necessary hands-on
training for employees.
There is no established approach to implement
Industr y 4 . 0 , which allows small to midsize
manufacturers the flexibility to do what is best
for their processes and begin the transition. In fact,
the 2019 Indiana Manufacturing Surveyi found
that organizational-related activities including
manufacturing structures and processes jumped
from 5% to 20% in 2019.
The Whitley EDC neighborly collaborative approach
focuses on learning by doing, working directly
with companies and providing skill training to
the workforce to enable transformation beyond
COVID-19 and throughout Industry 4.0.
Whitley County is ready to welcome you to our
robust manufacturing and strategic business
climate. Contact the Whitley EDC team and Dale
Buuck via telephone at 260.244.5506 or email at
About Whitley County EDC
The Whitley County Economic Development
Corporation (EDC) is the lead economic development
agency in Whitley County, Indiana. The Whitley EDC
works closely with local, regional, state and global
partners to support our industry clients’ growth
and success. Our mission is to lead a comprehensive
economic development program that retains and
expands employment opportunities for residents
and attracts business investment to Whitley County.
The Whitley County EDC was established in 1992
and represents Whitley County, Columbia City
and the towns of Churubusco, Larwill and South
Whitley. For more information about the EDC visit
Value Added to Whitley County Economy
Transform Whitley County Manufacturing companies into agile Industry 4.0 organizations
■ Provide a “playbook” for companies to realistically identify opportunities for Industry 4.0 technology adoption.
Assist companies identify and develop an implementation plan for a technology that improves an aspect of their manufacturing.
■ Apply systematic learning to the development of an “agile” business management and planning process through adaption to current challenges and future opportunities.
■ Train and develop the company’s leadership skills to foster and develop an agile company management culture.
Help identify required employee work skills to implement Industry 4.0 technologies.
Create capabilities for the Whitley County Economic Development Organization to grow existing manufacturing business and attract new businesses
■ Develop a structured adaption of the information acquired for the development of future offerings specifically directed to growing and strengthening the competitive position of existing companies.
■ Create the environment used to attract new business to Whitley County, businesses specifically driven by Industry 4.0 technologies.
Create an environment within the educational institutions of the region to foster rapid accommodations to the work skills required for both the agile company and Industry 4.0 technologies.
■ Purdue Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech Fort Wayne will engage faculty and students in innovative applied research to build stronger connections between area manufacturing and education. The students involved in projects will be primed to graduate into industry positions within the region.
■ Provide an information source for use by K-12 educational institutions for their students to gain skills required for Industry 4.0 technologies.
Create a capability to transfer the lessons learned.
■ The Industry 4.0 taskforce will assemble the data collected and lessons learned from project processes to develop a comprehensive report that identifies best practices as well as future opportunities for Whitley County and the region.
■ Work skills required for both the agile companies and Industry 4.0 technologies will be quantified for Whitley County manufacturing companies.