Our Six Strategies
We’re already growing, but to keep attracting workforce talent in the future, our pitch must be more than, “Not as crowded or expensive as the north side.” For the next level of success, we are changing how we do business – and working together as a region. We know greater things are possible for our residents if we link growth and character together. The ingredients of our strategy are well-known, but what’s less familiar is working on them across political borders.
In short, we’ve set out to build an outdoor recreation sector and an arts and culture segment. We’ve already got a head start on the next goal – build truly outstanding downtowns. But we’re going to supplement that effort by working together to support innovation and entrepreneurship. Shown below are the six components of our strategy for downtown quality of life, outdoor recreation, arts and culture, housing, regional infrastructure developments, and talent development.
Outdoor Recreation Sector
Establish a regional outdoor recreation sector by enhancing existing assets and building new ones.
Housing For Talent Attraction
Direct growth to support quality development in support of talent attraction, including providing housing to meet regional and local needs.
Expand access to all forms of higher education to build our own talent pipelines within the region.
Downtown Quality of Life
Goal: Support outstanding downtowns through targeted Quality of Place Investments.
Almost all the region’s larger downtowns have seen considerable public and private investment. The private money is particularly gratifying, because it signals that our local, elected leaders were correct to venture millions of dollars on streets, sidewalks, bumpouts, façade improvements, benches, and lighting for our central business districts.
In fact, many of our downtowns are seeing more action now than they have since the 1950s. Our central business districts are returning to their place as prominent employment centers and even the smallest downtown employs hundreds of people.
Researchers have found that quality of place is a regional attribute, according to “Place and Prosperity: Quality of Place as an Economic Driver,” a 2008 article in The Main Policy Review, both people and businesses assess quality of place at a regional level. Residents’ perceptions of quality of place come from the collection of communities in which they live, work, shop, and recreate on a daily basis.
Goal: Establish a regional outdoor recreation sector by enhancing existing assets and building new.
We have both supply and demand for outdoor recreation and quality greenspace in the region, but are just beginning to work together on these amazing resources. Management is necessary because we’ve noticed within our borders increasing demand for both urban amenities and outdoor activities – and the need to balance these competing interests.
The demand for outdoor space is a regional indicator of larger socio-economic trends including continuing interest in natural and sports activities, the growing statewide obesity epidemic and the increasing importance and economic benefits of Indiana travel, tourism and outdoor recreation.
Most people agree that having quality parks and recreation sites and facilities improves the quality of life in a community, but does it affect fiscal health? The answer is ‘yes.’
In Indiana, $1,234,379,444 in economic activity was generated by local parks and recreation in 2015. This includes 10,758 jobs supported by parks and recreation and $436,074,781 in salaries, wages, and benefits, according to a George Mason University report, “Economic Impact of Local Parks: An Examination of the Economic Impacts of Operations and Capital Spending by Local Park and Recreation Agencies on the United States Economy.”
Shown below is a table with rough estimates of where we stand with the outdoor recreation acreage supply/demand ratio according to The Indiana Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2021-2025, along with proposed recreation projects for strategy two. The report totals the amount of public outdoor recreation acreage controlled by local, state and federal governments. It includes everything from city parks to national preserves.
Arts & Culture
Goal: Establish an Arts and Culture sector by enhancing existing assets and building new ones.
More than 160,000 Hoosiers are employed in Indiana’s creative economy, according to The Arts Everywhere Every Day for Everyone in Indiana 2017-2018, a report by the Indiana Arts Commission. There are 5,132 creative business establishments in Indiana, according to the study. The state defines the creative economy as a range of “occupations and industries that focus on the production and distribution of cultural goods, services, and intellectual property.”
Indianapolis and the 180 Alliance region has already been recognized as vital to this sector. “Central Indiana has the strongest trends and opportunities for the state’s creative economy,” according to the Indiana Arts Commission’s Creative Economy Report 2016. For example, the region has 26% of Indiana’s population, but 40% of its creative industries and occupations.
While we support and intend to grow what the public considers more traditional creativity jobs – artists, musicians, etc. – the creative economy goes much deeper.
The industries with the largest proportions of creative jobs are in the information sector, including publishing, broadcasting, and telecommunications. Arts, entertainment, and recreation provide services to meet the recreational and cultural needs of residents, and include professions related to sports, historical sites, and performing arts. The professional, scientific, and technology sector specializes in performing technical activities for others, and includes jobs related to advertising, architecture, and photography.
Housing for Talent Attraction
Goal: Direct growth to support quality development in support of talent attraction, including providing housing to meet regional and local needs.
Housing is perhaps the most talked about topic in economic development for a simple reason: to attract new businesses to your community you need to have a talented workforce to draw from to fill those jobs, and that workforce must have somewhere to live.
The 180 Alliance region’s housing market has been supercharged by population growth, tight inventory, and pent-up demand. Having “more affordable housing” than other Indianapolis areas has always been part of the 180 Alliance region’s secrets to success, so we are alarmed by the sticker shock encountered by new residents arriving here in search of a home.
Home prices are rising everywhere, but costs in the 180 Region have outstripped both the U.S. median (10.3% increase) and the Marion County median (13.3% increase) over the last year, according to Realtor. com. Many homes get multiple offers, some with waived contingencies, and sell within a week. Almost every corner of our region has been “discovered” by homeowners.
These escalating prices are not sustainable. We are concerned about how rocketing housing costs influence the location choice and talent attraction that is the foundation of our population growth.
Fortunately, our available resources and our housing strategy supports room for the full spectrum of workforce housing. With the market emphasis on building new higher-income homes, it is vital that we also preserve workforce housing, defined as housing affordable to households earning between 60 and 120 percent of area median income. Workforce housing targets middle-income workers which includes professions such as police officers, firefighters, teachers, health care workers, retail clerks and the like.
Regional Infrastructure Improvements
Goal: Improve infrastructure and transportation routes to support economic development and mobility.
Infrastructure investments benefit both businesses, households, and the economy as a whole, according to Economic Impact of Infrastructure Investment, a 2018 study by the Congressional Research Service. For businesses, infrastructure can lower fixed costs of production, especially transportation costs, which are often a central determinant of where businesses are located.
For households, a wide variety of goods and services are provided through infrastructure services, such as water, energy, and telecommunications. Infrastructure benefits the economy overall, as it allows more goods and services to be produced with the same level of inputs, fostering long-term economic growth.
Indiana has recognized the need for these vital investments, as our steering committee members repeatedly noted the miles of detours and orange cones they encountered while visiting each other’s communities during this planning process.
Success in a 21st-century economy requires serious, sustained leadership on infrastructure investment at all levels of government. Delaying these investments only escalates the cost and risks of an aging infrastructure system, an option that the country, Indiana, and families can no longer afford.
Goal: Expand access to all forms of higher education to build our own talent pipelines within the region.
There’s no shortage of obstacles and opportunities for our regional businesses, but recruiting and retaining talent has recently moved toward the top of the list. As Millennials and Gen Z generations flood a marketplace made uncertain by COVID-19, there are intense discussions about remote work, flexible schedules, supply chain rebuilding, and other workforce topics.
This instability underscores the need for a durable talent pipeline, defined as a ready pool of candidates prepared to fill key roles with local employers. Our companies, despite operating in a largely candidate-led market, do not have the luxury of waiting for candidates to take the lead and apply. They need to have prospective candidates prepared before the need arises for them to fill a role.
To stay ahead in today’s economy, our workers must acquire new skills. Our local economic development professionals and university representatives know we are exceptionally fortunate in this area because of our large workforce and bountiful opportunities for training and higher education. Our schools – DePauw University Franklin College, Ivy Tech, Wabash College – are invaluable assets for launching successful careers.
As impressive as our list of education and workforce training assets is, we know we have much more work to do in order to maintain our momentum as Indiana’s next chapter in population and workforce growth.