The Knox County Development Corp.’s new CEO has hit the ground running in his first 30 days with the organization.
Chris Pfaff, a military veteran with an extensive background in economic development, gave his first full report to members of the KCDC’s board of directors Friday morning during their regular monthly meeting.
His primary goal during his first month at the organization’s helm, he said, was to meet as many people as possible.
“So I’ve met with 31 local leaders so far,” he said, “and 18 of them have been (among you) board members.”
Pfaff said he, too, had met with elected officials in Bicknell and in Sandborn as well as representatives with regional economic development organizations, specifically Radius Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
He also formed a special committee of officials with the KCDC, the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, the Pantheon: A Business and Innovation Theatre, the Vincennes Tourism Bureau and the new Downtown Vincennes Association to “share information” and work together toward “common goals,” he told the board.
Pfaff, too, said he would work each month to give specific updates to KCDC board members, including recurring reports on things like ongoing activities and industry attraction efforts as well as initiatives towards business retention and expansion.
He’s met with several business leaders so far, he said. And the main issue he’s hearing time and again is that they need workers — a lot of them.
“I’ve not met with an employer yet that isn’t being met with the challenge of attracting good talent,” Pfaff told the group, gathered at KCARC’s The Shop, a training facility for those with disabilities located at 2008 S. Hart Street Road.
“There are a number of job openings, businesses that need people,” he said. “We have businesses that are doing very well despite the pandemic.”
Dave Turpin, plant manager at Futaba Indiana of America, located in the U.S. 41 Industrial Park said he has 130 open positions right now, a fact to which the entire room gasped.
“It’s a busy busy time,” he told the board. “But that’s a good sign that, maybe, the economy isn’t as bad off as we sometimes think.”
In the coming months, Pfaff said the KCDC will need to make helping these employers find good, skilled workers a top priority.
“That is likely one of the number one issues we’re going to have to deal with,” he said. “We need to try to come up with solutions to attract talent.”
Pfaff, too, said another priority will be to rebrand the organization and update the KCDC’s website, a venture that will be done alongside its own marketing committee.
“That will take a number of months,” he said, “but I hope to see us take a look at those initiatives, our branding and online presence, and see how well we’re telling our story.”
Overall, Pfaff said he’s enjoyed his first 30 days spent in Knox County, and he’s eager to begin helping the organization shift its economic development focus.
“It’s been pretty brisk,” he told the group of his first month on the job. “But I look forward to continuing at that pace.”
Pfaff is recently retired from the U.S. Army, where he held a number of positions, most recently as mission director for Atterbury-Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations.
During his tenure with the Indiana National Guard, he also served as the director of strategic initiatives, working closely with state and regional economic development organizations on defense-industry related development in Indiana.
Pfaff is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and served associated tours in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
He also served as the IEDC’s director of business development during the organization’s formative years.
Pfaff holds a degree from Indiana University and recently completed a master’s degree in public affairs from the O’Neill School at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He serves on the board of directors for the Indiana Chapters of the National Defense Industrial Association and the Association of the U.S. Army.