Montgomery County Economic Development's successful year was capped this week by the announcement that Kristin Clary will become MCED's director on Jan. 7, 2013.

She brings experience as economic development director of Parke County. She and her family will make Montgomery County their home, and she will make Montgomery County's economic health her mission.

As I write the final two of 19 weekly articles, and thus finish my contract with MCED, I want to speak personally rather than as a representative of MCED. I want to reflect on a year of phenomenal change brought about through countless hours of work by MCED Board members, especially Rusty Carter, president, and others. I also want to share my perspective about the challenges that remain.

Think of all that has been accomplished this year. Relationships and communication with governmental leaders, community groups, and the public have improved. City and the county leaders renewed their commitment to work hand-in-hand.

A new Plan, crafted by some of our community's most gifted leaders, identifies strategies that are aligned with the challenges and opportunities of today's global economy. Regular evaluation of progress and corrective action will be the responsibility of the Planning Committee. The past year has proven that success is possible with a small, lean organization when volunteer community leaders do much of the work.

MCED is positioned to receive a grant for a revolving loan fund from the USDA, an economic strategy Ms. Clary used successfully in Parke County. Crawford Industries announced capital investment and new jobs, local citizens invested in face lifts for Crawfordsville's downtown, and several other businesses decided now is the time to grow. MCED is working with at least five other companies that will likely locate or expand here.

For all that is good, more remains to be done.

We cannot compete with the hundreds of other communities that are working as hard as we are to attract capital investment and jobs, until we make an investment in ourselves. We are not as ready as we must be.

We must market ourselves and build on our strengths. We will use web-base strategies but we may also have to bring in outside resources as the Crawfordsville Redevelopment Commission did by hiring Summit Realty Group to market the Commerce Park.

The Indiana General Assembly gave counties County Economic Development Income Tax to promote development. However, when property taxes became an unbearable burden for property owners, the General Assembly allowed counties to use this resource to reduce the burden. Now that the General Assembly provided other tools for property tax relief, CEDIT can return to its intended purpose. During the coming year, the County Council will discuss how to use CEDIT to make us ready.

When companies look at our community as a potential place to locate, they expect us to be ready. They want land that it is available and "Shovel Ready." That means that environmental studies have been done and drainage is adequate. It can also mean that infrastructure such as utilities are ready to be "plugged in," and roads and lighting are completed. This is how we become ready.

They want buildings that meet their needs for ceiling height, square footage, and dock doors. We may need to upgrade buildings or offer incentives to companies willing to rehabilitate them. We may also need to buy properties at tax sale, improve them, sell them, and put them back on the tax role as Parke County did under Ms. Clary's leadership. This is how we become ready.

MCED has accomplished much in 2012, and Ms. Clary's leadership and the collective effort of many others, the best is yet to come.

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