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WEDCO promotes business, communities

Williams County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ashley Epling has been busy getting to know the business leaders of the county.

Brian Koeller | The Bryan Times

Retaining existing business while trying to attract new ones, and also promoting the county, are the major goals of Williams County Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO).

“Essentially, we are promoting Williams County and we want businesses to come here, but we also want our current businesses to stay here and grow,” said WEDCO Executive Director Ashley Epling.

“It’s a lot of retention and expansion,” she added.

Though she’s relatively new in the job, having started in January, Epling has hit the ground running.

“I try to get out to a couple of businesses a week, find out what they’re doing, what their struggles are and what we can do to help,” Epling said.

One such recent meeting could lead to an effort to organize a network group for human resource officers of businesses in the county.

She has also heard issues with workforce development, especially bridging the gap between educators and the companies in the county.

Epling hopes to take what the Bryan Advisory Council is doing in the city — having local business leaders meet with educators to discuss what is being done in schools and if things can be done differently — and expand it.

“I would like to work and make that more of a county-wide thing, because I think getting all the schools together, as well as businesses, would really help everyone,” Epling said.

After receiving some recent inquiries on how to start a small business, Epling is planning on holding a small business seminar on May 22, likely in Edon.

“I want to have some people who have recently opened a small business come in and talk about what their hurdles were, and what they went through and what they wish they had done differently,” Epling said.

She will also have a representative of the Small Business Administration on hand to answer questions.

Housing is another issue she’s been hearing a lot about, and commended the Williams County Port Authority for the progress it has made in that area recently.

“We want people to come Williams County and work here and live here, but if there’s no place to live, how’s that work?” she asked.

Epling said she was at the recent signing day at Bryan High School, and noted about 45% of graduates plan to enter the workforce right out of high school.

“A lot of them can probably live with their parents for awhile, but there’s going to come a point where they’re going to need a place of their own,” she said.

Another role for WEDCO is to help facilitate events going on throughout the county.

“Shailynn (Bohner, WEDCO administrative assistant) has taken the lead on being that community liaison and getting out and working with all of the different chambers and just trying to coordinate with them so that we aren’t having events at the same time,” Epling said.

Mostly, she wants people to know WEDCO is here to help the community and businesses anyway it can.

“I want people to know what WEDCO is and what we do,” she said. “I’ll be out in the community doing things and meeting with businesses and organizations and just learning what they’re doing. And how can I connect all of it? That’s really what I’m focusing on and want to work on.”

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