With a new year came a new area of focus from a fairly new CEO for the Kosciusko County Economic Development Corp.

Alan Tio took over for the retired George Robertson as KEDCo’s CEO in the fall. While in full recognition of the orthopedic industry and the influence it carries in the area, Tio wants to help diversify business by enhancing local agriculture and attracting more ag-based technology companies to the area.

“I feel like we have two areas of legacy to build on: medical devices and agri-business,” Tio said. “And I’ve wondered, ‘How do we launch an effort, an initiative, to become the first community in the state to stake our claim to a future in agri-business, and become a place known for that individual sector.’”

To start, he said, they’re convening a group of 30 business and community leaders to develop a plan. They’re also joining Agrinovus Indiana, an initiative to develop ag-bioscience.

“We’re the first community to join at the board level in the state, and we want to make clear our commitment the extent to which we’re supporting agribusiness,” he said. “Then we’ll see where it goes.”

Tio has speaking to various groups, including the county commissioners and county council last month, sharing the vision and garnering additional support.

“One of the examples I shared with the county council was an international ag company locating its U.S. headquarters and operations to include at the new tech park in West Lafayette. That introduction came from Kip Tom, who’s a Kosciusko County resident,” Tio said.

“We have business leaders in our community who are working globally, and we want to make sure we can help them find opportunities to bring some of those partners here to Kosciusko County.

“That may have been the ideal project to take to West Lafayette, but we have no doubt if we’re at the table, we’ll find some things that are a good fit for our community.”

Tio said he wants to make sure Warsaw and the surrounding communities are on-par with well-known Indiana cities. He would like Warsaw to be mentioned in the same breath as places like West Lafayette, Evansville and Bloomington.

“It’s not just to bring jobs to the area, but it’s also stressing the business community that’s here as well, and making sure we’re a part of the future of agribusiness,” Tio said.

“I get concerned when prosperity sets in that the business community gets complacent. We’ve got to keep moving forward, keep pushing and working to build the best, most competitive community we can and also make sure we’re supporting the growth of the companies we already have in the area, so they develop new products and new technologies and work together to compete globally.”

Toward that end, Tio will be part of an Indiana delegation headed to the Bay Area for a tech convention­ where it will be more than learning about the latest gadgets.

“We’ll be attending an event in Silicon Valley next month, the ‘Thrive Innovation Summit,’ with Agrinovus. That’s an ag-tech-focused event,” said Tio. “It’s an example of how we’re going to build a network of people across the country and around the world, and make sure they know about Kosciusko County.”