The party in late September 2012 for Carolyn Branham, retiring activity director at Bickford Cottage Assisted Living, was like most retirement parties. Guests ate cake and drank punch as the guest of honor opened dozens of cards. What made this party different was that five of the cards contained gift certificates for Cracker Barrel. All laughed when the first appeared but by the time the fifth emerged, Bickford residents had set the date for a dinner trip.

Most of the citizens of Montgomery County share the enthusiasm and the collective hope that Cracker Barrel signals better economic days ahead. However, most do not know about the infrastructure that makes Cracker Barrel possible.

Cracker Barrel is located on top of the Foster Fletcher farm drain. Over the past few years, as some of the land use west of US 231 and south of I-74 changed from agricultural production to hotels, the increasing surface water flow insured the ultimate failure of the drain. Fulfilling its responsibility to the landowners who pay yearly assessment to maintain the drain, the Drainage Board restricted the amount of water each parcel could release, essentially stopping development in the watershed.

The only way to protect the drain and provide for development was to reconstruct the drain. The Drainage Board was initiating the series of legal steps toward reconstruction when Cracker Barrel executives submitted an application for a drainage permit. In December 2011, the Drainage Board met to hear landowner concerns. The cost for the $324,000 reconstruction would be shared by landowners, farmers, and commercial properties, including the new 4-H fairgrounds. The most compelling concern came from the 4-H Board whose estimated bill for the reconstruction was $89,000.

Learning of the problem from a member of the Drainage Board, Commissioner Phil Bane, member of the Montgomery County Economic Development (MCED) executive board solicited the help of Steve Golliher, president of the Crawfordsville Redevelopment Commission (RDC). The Foster Fletcher is in the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district controlled by the RCD. Because infrastructure development is the purpose of the TIF fund, the RDC voted to pay for one-half of the cost of the reconstruction. Armed with financial relief for the 4-H and other landowners, the Board approved reconstruction and, thus, cleared the way for the approval of the Cracker Barrel drainage permit.

The Cracker Barrel story is a clear example of Montgomery County Economic Development Commission (MCED) as the community's focal point for economic development. While private companies such as Cracker Barrel make decisions about where to locate based on financial considerations, local units of governments such as the city, the county, the RDC and the Drainage Board provide infrastructure improvements or financial incentives that influence those decisions. Because MCED brings local units of government and community leaders together to communicate, plan and problem solve, our community now has the infrastructure to support Cracker Barrel and additional capital investment and jobs in the Foster Fletcher watershed.