Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Steps, hurdles to ‘Thriving Communities’

Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2016

By Andy Ober, Assistant Managing Editor, INside Indiana Business

Hoosier communities must keep a focus on education, leadership and quality of life efforts to thrive over the next decade. That is a major takeaway from a two-year study from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, which used three place-base commissions to compile data on rural, mid-sized and urban communities. In addition, director Mark Lawrance, pictured at left, says rural communities should work to beef up entrepreneurial efforts, specifically in agriculture and supply chain businesses, to spark economic and population growth.

Lawrance says population migration from rural areas to larger communities continues to be a challenge for the state. According to the institute’s report, 96 percent of Indiana’s land is rural or small-town, but those communities only account for 37 percent of the state’s jobs. In addition, it details projections that, while many areas in Indiana are projected to grow in population between now and 2040, west central Indiana is expected to remain flat, while east central Indiana is predicted to have a population decrease.

Lawrance says agricultural entrepreneurship can help bridge that gap. He adds that rural communities should also focus on creating businesses to supply larger companies throughout the state. Another top issue, he says, is broadband access. He says in rural communities, the issue is availability. In urban areas, it was about affordability.

Another big focus is the continued effort to increase educational attainment in Indiana. Lawrance says the state has a large population of people age 25 and older who have some college credit, but no degree. He says that could be a “sweet spot” to increase attainment levels. The Lumina Foundation has set a goal of 60 percent of all Hoosier adults having a degree, certificate or other credential by 2025. The institute says Hamilton County is the only county in the state currently achieving those levels.