Economic Development Becomes Career Option

Zach Churney ’14 – For eight weeks this summer I have had the opportunity to work in the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development office for Montgomery County. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and the amazing opportunities available through the Lilly Business Fund, I was able to have some remarkable experiences that may ultimately shape my future career path.

When first interviewing for the marketing position, I made sure to do some research on what Economic Development entails and what I would be expected to do. To be honest, with most internships the intern is simply expected to fulfill simple tasks and do as he or she is told. With this interning position, however, I knew that would not be the case. Montgomery County Economic Development (MCED) Director, Kristin Clary told me upfront, “I want someone who won’t need a to-do list but will instead create projects and impress me. If you’re going to intern for me, you need to realize that you’re part of this team.” Her words inspired me to go beyond the typical intern role.

Among the many things I have gained in working for MCED, a love for the community is something that has grown on me. By doing a lot of metric work on Montgomery County and Crawfordsville I see a more detailed picture now. I have given presentations to the League of Women Voters, Mayor Barton, Crawfordsville Main Street, and many other organizations on how we might improve the community on different levels. One specific project I played with was the idea of bringing a Starbucks to Crawfordsville. I did some metric work showing that our 19-35 year-old demographic is dangerously low and in order to draw them in, we have to make some sort of improvement to the quality of life in Crawfordsville. Now, I wasn’t arguing that a Starbucks would solve all the problems, but at least it’s a concrete step toward a solution.

In exiting this internship I was asked how it has changed my potential career path. My answer was that I am now considering moving toward Economic Development as a career. As a political science and German major I have always had a passion for the sociological side of politics and civic engagement, and I think that Economic Development as a career is a perfect fit for what I’m passionate about. The past eight weeks have been some of the most beneficial weeks of my college career and I could not be more thankful for the opportunities that have been put before me.

I want to express my gratitude toward those alumni who keep programs such as this going, to Betsy Knott for her help in so much of this, and to the team I had the privilege of working with at the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Office. These individuals have played a large role in impacting my future career path. Thank you.

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