Student Spotlight: Valerie Shaffer
One of Wayne County's largest economic development projects in recent years might not have been possible without Valerie Shaffer's work behind the scenes.
Shaffer, a 2005 graduate of Indiana University East, was assigned the task of assembling a welcoming committee for Really Cool Foods, a growing company looking to create more than 1,000 jobs in the Midwest.
“It was my job to pick the most suitable site and propose that to the company,” said Shaffer, the manager of business development for the Wayne County Economic Development Corp. “I selected the site, and once it was determined to be viable, I worked with the state to set up a site visit.
“At that point, we didn't know who they were,” she said of the growing organic foods company. “I worked with (former Wayne County Economic Development Corp. CEO) Jim (Dinkle) to work with a group of attendees from Workforce Development, utility representatives and county officials just to provide a great group to answer any questions they would potentially have. After the site visit, I became the point of contact with the company and with the state when they needed information.”
Really Cool Foods
The company, which manufactures freshly-prepared organic meals, eventually selected the site in the Gateway Industrial Park just north of Cambridge City. They opened a $24 million production site and distribution center in October 2008.
“It was a great learning experience to be a part of a project of that magnitude and a really rewarding part of my job,” Shaffer said. “After they selected Wayne County, I helped organize the groundbreaking ceremony that they had.”
Tim Scales, one of Shaffer's professors while at IU East, said his former student's professional success is hardly surprising.
“I felt like she really came alive in one of my classes,” Scales, IU East's director of the Center of Entrepreneurship, said. That class was marketing, where Shaffer and other students participated in a television auction for Whitewater Community Television.
“Valerie kind of did it all,” he said. “She was very strong in the overall marketing of the auction. Valerie went in front of the camera and filmed some commercial spots. She was willing to do anything and try anything.”
Today, Shaffer is also on the WCTV Board of Directors, and the auction is still a major fundraising event for the organization. She said it is her most vivid memory as an IU East student.
Even though Shaffer graduated five years ago, she still spends time on campus, attending events and staying in touch with friends and faculty she met as a student.
IU East continues to impact Shaffer professionally as well.
“It's a very attractive selling point,” Shaffer said of IU East's growing campus where enrollment has more than doubled since she graduated.
The campus is one of the first places she takes clients that are interested in Wayne County.
“It's very important to see such a thriving campus in such a small community,” she said.