Some of us look around and focus on the negative. Mary Perren, executive assistant of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation (SCEDF) focuses on what could be.
As a Starke County native, Perren understands all that her community has to offer.
“I grew up in Starke County– in North Judson,” Perren said.
After graduating from North Judson-San Pierre High School, Perren left home to pursue a journalism degree and career. As years went on, she knew returning to Starke County was just what she needed.
“This has always been a special place, so I moved back to Northwest Indiana," Perren said. "I really think being gone gave me a greater appreciation for what is here–this great sense of community that you're not going to get anywhere else. It’s the small stuff–walking into the grocery store and seeing familiar faces light up and say, ‘Mary It's good to see you.'”
Since her return to Starke County, Perren has worked tirelessly for her community first at the highway department and now as a key member of the SCEDF.
“I told myself, don't be the one to complain about what's not here," Starke County's Mary Perren said. "Be the change–help make this a better place and let people know about the great things that are going on here.”
Today, Perren and her colleagues at the SCEDF do just that.
As a key contributor to Starke Tank, Perren, and the SCEDF support and provide resources to small businesses throughout Starke County.
“Starke Tank (our small business pitch competition) is geared toward helping small businesses,” Perren said. “Our main focus is to take a look at Starke County, to look at establishing businesses here, and to promote growth.”
Starting small, Starke Tank began with a few participants and one benefactor. This last year, the program had 10 competitors with over $18,000 in prize money.
"This year’s Starke Tank was just a tremendous, tremendous event,” Perren said. “It was very positive, and it got a lot of wonderful media feedback. We're already planning for next year and determining how to make next year’s event even bigger and better. It is one of my proudest achievements here.”
Not content with just one win, Perren and her colleagues have several projects in the works. From applying and winning rural community grants to partnering with local areas to increase tourism and access, the SCEDF plans to put Starke County on the map.
Recently Perren was honored for her tireless dedication to the people of Starke County. As a recipient of the 2022 Northwest Indiana Influential Women Up and Coming award, Perren was self-effacing.
“I'm humbled,” Perren said. “I'm honored and humbled to be recognized because you'll get the names of the women on the list of nominees and finalists and it's just like–'What am I doing in this kind of company?’ I just do my job. I love my community. I'm not thinking in terms of recognition. The thing that means the most to me is that we are doing what we set out to do–which is put Starke County on the map in a positive way. We are making a positive difference in this community and to be recognized for that is just amazing.”
Perren has no plans of stopping any time soon.
To learn more about the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, visit its website.