Picture all the pizzas purchased by Wabash students in the 2012 school year placed side by side starting at Wabash and heading west on U.S. 136.

How far might they go? Crawfordsville city limits? Waynetown?

Now picture the economy of Montgomery County as dollar bills being passed continuously around in a bucket. Rick and Myra Creek give Ron Hatley some dollars for cleaning their furnace. Ron gives some of those dollars to Dr. Michael Scheidler for an eye exam. Michael passes them on to Milligans for flowers for his wife's birthday. Milligans pays an employee who spends those dollars for a hair cut at Nogginz. And on and on it goes.

Our local economy consists of interchanges such as these within the bucket. Our local economy is also fueled with money from outside the bucket, creating even more interchanges within.

New, outside money comes into Montgomery County from several sources. Our industries make things, sell them outside the county and use the income to pay workers who buy local goods and services. Agricultural producers grow crops and animals, sell them outside the county, and use the money to buy equipment, fuel, and groceries, and to pay taxes. Tourists spend their money in Montgomery County bringing revenue to restaurants and stores.

Another significant source of outside money comes from the families and students of Wabash who pay for tuition, room and board, and pizzas. Little Giant is more than just a nickname. Wabash is also a little economic giant for Montgomery County. The money spent by Wabash students and their families supports 236 staff and faculty and their families who buy groceries, houses, cars, eye exams, and more, thus, participating in the exchange described above. Each time Wabash has a meeting or a sporting event, parents and alumni spend their out-of-county money in local hotels and restaurants.

So how far west on U.S. 136 will a school year's worth of pizzas reach?

If each of the 900 Wabash students purchases one pizza a week for 40 school weeks, there are enough 12-inch pizzas to reach almost to Waynetown. If the weekly purchases fall short, hundreds of pizzas purchased for noon-time lectures take up the slack.

Serious economists use more sophisticated terms for the dynamics described in this story. However, the point is the same. Our economy is strong when outside money flows into Montgomery County's economic bucket. Economic development is about keeping existing sources of money flowing in and recruiting new ones. Thanks to industries, agricultural producers, tourists, and Wabash for bringing money to Montgomery County.

Deanna Durrett is the Public Relations Director for Montgomery County Economic Development. Read MCED's column every Monday in The Paper.