The State of Our Region
The unique circumstances that make the 180 Alliance region a desirable place to live demands we also look at equally distinctive ways of maintaining that desirability. We acknowledge that most other regions are asking for $50 million (or more) to build the type of growth we’re already experiencing. Our request is to help us make the most of that sought-after progress.
Put simply, we are fast growing, rural areas at the edge of a metropolitan region and facing metropolitan-style development pressures. We do not have the capacity – yet – to fund a regional plan that builds the economy, protects the rural landscape, preserves open space, protects air and water quality, provides places for recreation, and creates tourist attractions that bring investments into the local economy.
The Story of Our Region
We are a region that doesn’t fit neatly into a box, and we view that as a strength.
We are a ‘new’ region in name only. Shared resources are the beginning of regionalism, and we freely share our No. 1 asset – our people. For example, more than 6,600 people drive into Hendricks County to work every day from Boone, Putnam, Morgan and Johnson counties, according to 2019 numbers from the Indiana Business Research Center. The number jumps to 18,000 when you include Marion County. At the same time, more than 2,300 people leave Hendricks County to work in Boone and Morgan counties. The number rockets to 34,000 when you include Marion County.
That’s more than 183,000 people crisscrossing our roads to and from work every day. While preparing this application, our team was deeply reminded just how connected we really are, and not just by the interstate network that runs through all our counties.
We inventoried what we share – commuting patterns, interstates, rivers, growing downtowns, abundant green space, and agricultural land. We’re a region of parallel interests with a collective future – all linkages and no barriers.
We recognize people are making their homes here because of the family-friendly and career-building opportunities and that their stories are the next chapter in Indiana’s growth. As shown in the resident profiles on these pages, our expansion has come mostly from:
RECENT COLLEGE GRADS ON THE CUSP OF THEIR NEXT GREATEST ADVENTURE.
They have the most to gain when looking for a place to land. This demographic is looking to get started in their career, so they want a place with a lot of job potential but also great opportunities outside of work. When looking for a job, salary and benefits are important, but so is workplace culture. They want an area that is diverse and progressive.
YOUNG ADULTS IN THEIR 20S AND NEWLY MARRIED.
These couples are searching for their next chapter. They are looking for a place to establish careers and families. This demographic looks for unique restaurants, shopping experiences, areas to explore the outdoors, and places to take their two dogs on Sunday morning. They want to walk to the local coffee shop or to the nearest hip bar to meet up with friends. They want to live somewhere they love, but where they work is more negotiable. This demographic also puts a high value on work/life balance and remote work opportunities. They see the world as full of possibilities and will stay in places where those possibilities are realized.
YOUNG ADULTS IN THEIR EARLY 30S AND 40S.
This demographic with younger children is interested in the quality of schools, programming for their kids, and safe spaces for them to play and explore. Since their children are still young, they are not deeply invested into a community yet and have more flexibility to move.
OUR LIFELONG AND LONG-TIME RESIDENTS.
We are also aware and protective of our lifelong and long-time residents, who are still talking about “how much the place has grown and changed – even in the last few years!” This demographic varies in age but they have a deep knowledge for their particular home. They are just learning to explore new offerings in their own towns as well as nearby communities.
How we plan to steer growth:
A review of each county’s comprehensive land use plan shows a shared urgency in protecting our region’s quality of life and not allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by urban sprawl.
- Boone County: The first sentence of their vision statement calls for “respecting the historically strong farming and rural communities.”
- Hendricks County: Their vision statement emphasizes, “We believe that the core values of small town rural American are central to the community’s quality of life.
- Johnson County: The report’s first stated goal is, “Protect the farmer’s right to farm while preserving character.”
- Montgomery County: Their vision statement calls for being “responsible stewards of our rural character and agricultural assets.”
- Morgan County: Their vision recognizes the county as a “hidden gem within the Indianapolis metropolitan area,” with an emphasis on “environmental conservation and recreation opportunities within the county.”
- Putnam County: Their third growth management objective was, “Promote the preservation of farmland and restrict sprawl development.”
Workforce & Economy Growth
As our region has grown, so has our economic self-sufficiency.
We can summarize the successful economic formula behind our growth: Highly skilled workers + low unemployment + higher-than-average-wages + low cost of living.
Although we send a large portion of our workforce into Marion County every day, 45% of our people both live and work within our region, according to 2018 commuting patterns. That means 164,840 people leave our six counties for work but 94,200 stay. Another 112,500 commute into the 180 Alliance region to work from elsewhere.
The future is looking good. Over the next 12 months, employment in the 180 Alliance region is projected to expand by 3,669 jobs, according to JobsEQ. The fastest growing sector in the region is expected to be Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services with a +2.5% year-over-year rate of growth. The strongest forecast by number of jobs over this period is expected for Transportation and Warehousing (+832 jobs), Health Care and Social Assistance (+519), and Retail Trade (+460).
Investments in Downtown Quality of Place
Our downtowns have returned as epicenters of history and culture for our growing communities.
With the ribbon-cuttings taking place in 180 Alliance region’s downtowns every week, we’ve turned the page on the sad decline of Main Streets that spread like an economic plague during the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“Dollar for dollar, there is no better investment than Main Street,” according to the National Association of Realtors. As a final boost to our future, people have started to move back and live downtown, triggering another wave of business growth.
Next, we need to focus on continued revitalization of our downtowns with an emphasis on strategies that help us grow and develop while maintaining our distinctive rural character. We want to work together on and share effective plans where businesses can thrive on a walkable Main Street and families can live close to their daily destinations.
Investments in Outdoor Recreation
Our new residents expect to spend time outdoors in quality green spaces.
The next step is to connect our existing trails within our region and work together on policies that protect the rural landscape, help preserve open space, protect air and water quality, provide places for recreation, and create tourist attractions that bring investments into the local economy.
This type of investment in recreation has many benefits – it triggers entrepreneurship-led economic development, helps sustain and expand conservation efforts and contributes to health and wellness.
Investments in Housing for Talent Attraction
Our communities are getting a crash course in the relationship between population and housing growth.
On one hand, the size of a population, and particularly the number of households, determines the demand for housing. On the other hand, the availability of suitable and affordable housing attracts certain categories of new residents. We have realized the importance of a holistic approach that considers housing within a neighborhood, community, and regional context.
We define sustainable communities as those offering affordable housing and integrated access to well-paying jobs, high-performing schools and health and wellness services. Our next step is to forge partnerships in sectors adjacent to housing, such as employment, education, and health to explore innovative ways to support affordable housing for families of low to moderate incomes.