KOKOMO, Ind. — For some who grow up in small towns, a college degree is their ticket out, a way to move to a big city.
For Nathan Kring, a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) earned at Indiana University Kokomo gives him the tools to stay in the town where he grew up to help it grow and thrive.
Kring, 28, currently is interim executive director of the Tipton County Economic Development Organization (TCEDO). Shortly after he finishes his M.B.A. in August, the “interim” tag comes off the title.
“The board saw the value I was bringing with the degree I was earning,” he said, noting that he will be the youngest economic development director in the state. “When you can speak to employers in their language, you gain credibility.”
Economic development was not what he originally planned as a career when he began his undergraduate program. After graduating from Tipton High School, he earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, economics, and classics from Wabash College, where he also played football. He planned to be a doctor, but decided it was not the right choice. He examined other options, including teaching high school chemistry, but ultimately enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2010.
“It was the best decision I could have made,” he said.
A skills inventory test identified his talent for languages, so he took a 50-week class and became fluent in Arabic. He earned associate degrees in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies in the Army, and was an interpreter, serving with the 10th Mountain Light Infantry Division. He was medically retired from the Army in 2014 and returned home to Tipton to decide what his next steps would be.
With military college tuition benefits available to him, Kring decided to enroll in the M.B.A. program at IU Kokomo. He worked as a substitute teacher and business consultant, and started at the economic development organization as project and communications manager in October 2015.
He began a six-month term as interim director April 1, after the previous director accepted another position. The job becomes permanent contingent on completing his degree.
“The board saw that I grew up here, and I love Tipton,” Kring said. “They were impressed with my work as communications director. I’m focused on programs that target economic growth and quality of life.”
As TCEDO director, he works with leaders of businesses currently in Tipton County, to be sure they have the resources they need, in addition to working on bringing new businesses to the area.
He found it interesting to work in the business world while completing his M.B.A.
“It’s nice when you see what you’re learning in the classroom being applied in the real world,” he said.
He plans to continue his education as well, potentially enrolling in IU Kokomo’s Master of Public Management program, or a master’s program in law.
Part of Kring’s economic development plan is downtown revitalization, to make the county more attractive to potential residents, and workforce development, seeking grants to train unskilled workers, so they have opportunities for better-paying jobs.
“Economic development used to be just about job creation, and finding employers to move to your community,” he said. “Now employers find places people want to live and work, and move their jobs there. More education provides more opportunities.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.