Part of a series on my participation in the Putnam County Leadership Academy.
Last week, Mayor Bill Dory told our group that housing was the greatest challenge for Greencastle moving forward. This was one, though integral, part of our quality of life.
He stipulated that this was not a focused function of city government. Rather, local economic development, nonprofits and the community at large would drive this issue. We tackled this further with what "love" for our city is -- and what makes us unique.
Us having this love is part of what is called quality of place. This is the sum of what a community, large or small, has and might offer to both its residents and to visitors. Moreover, it focuses on what kind of demographic a community would want to attract.
Kristin Clary, who is the executive director of the Greencastle/Putnam County Economic Development Center, contrasted the idea that if a place like Greencastle has the jobs, people will come. Now, they're coming and asking one broad question: What kind of community do you have?
Industry-wise, Clary said the major problem that Putnam County as a whole faces now is that we don't have enough workers. This is even as our current businesses are always looking to expand.
As such, it has become less about expansion and more about promoting our existing development.
This why tax abatements and tax increment financing (TIF) districts are so important to our industrial businesses. With both, municipal governments allow community investment and the growth of amenities (and thus more cash flow).
Economic development in Putnam County is contingent on retaining and providing for its community. So, how do we answer that broad question here in the county seat?
Greencastle is not like Indianapolis simply on account of the sheer size difference between the two. Still, quality of place is not only about cultural amenities, which would include museums, music festivals and Ubben Lectures at DePauw University.
Don't get me wrong, these certainly contribute to Greencastle being a vibrant and active college town, one where people want to stay and be involved. This, however, is where we get back to affordable housing, low crime rates and a stable downtown. I would add that sustaining our public schools is pivotal to having united communities.
This is why Clary, the Putnam County Chamber and the Putnam County Visitor's Bureau work in tandem. They are the mediators and partners which will help people and businesses take advantage of what Greencastle and Putnam County has to offer.
"Loving" your community is getting creative, and then getting involved. We can try to do something novel for the pleasure of it -- and we can include each other. Lynn Ringis said when people "catch" onto something that stands out, they want to be a part of it.
We can find examples of this initiative in the Greencastle Piano Project, First Fridays, the Greencastle Farmers Market and the Civic League's murals around town. Peter Kageyama said these are the unique events where the community goes to "meet itself."
None of this happens overnight. But it takes a spark and a common goal to make it happen. As the next generation of influencers, our group has to be passionate about our community and the people in it. However, we can't forget who we are as people.
Kate Knaul of the visitor's bureau represented this with a button's holes. We are all professionals and community members. We also have our family and personal needs.