Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015
By KEVIN L. GREEN
KNIGHTSTOWN — Work together, play to your strengths, and promote what you have to offer.
That was the essence of what New Castle-Henry County Economic Development President Corey Murphy told a large crowd gathered for a civic forum at Knightstown Diner Thursday.
The forum was attended by elected officials, community leaders and citizens interested in hearing from Murphy and Darrin Jacobs, president of the Spiceland Town Council and former chair of the EDC board of directors.
Murphy shared his definition of effective community leadership.
“It embraces measured risks. It is action-oriented to avoid paralysis. It leverages community strengths. It’s open to receiving input, and it values both the young and the old,” he said.
He also said a skilled workforce is an important economic development tool, and encouraged pursuit of WorkReady certification in conjunction with ACT’s WorkReady Communities program.
Business retention and expansion was another area Murphy said was important, noting that “the lion’s share” of economic development takes place in this area. He also pointed out that the Henry County EDC and the Small Business Development Center are available to assist, and offer low interest loans through the Enterprise Loan Program.
Specific to Knightstown, Murphy shared a list of things the community can do to develop a competitive advantage, including being friendly and welcoming, and making sure signage throughout the town is adequate. He encouraged the forum attendees to think like they have never been to Knightstown before, assess needs, and a ess needs, and harness the power of the Internet. Murphy said a web presence, especially one viewable on smartphones and tablets, is crucial.
“People aren’t going to come if they don’t know you’re here,” he said.
He also said good schools are a key to success.
“K to 12 education is absolutely critical because you need young families. You need young families to come to your community and you need the young families that are already here to stay,” Murphy said.
He listed what he considers the town’s strengths. They included authentic, small town charm; the fact U.S. 40, “The National Road,” passes through the heart of town; the town’s basketball heritage, the connection to the movie Hoosiers, and its proximity to Indianapolis.
“Based on your strengths, I think the strategy here in Knightstown is a focus on tourism. I think it’s a focus on small to mid-sized businesses. And I think it’s a focus on being a highly livable community,” he said.
Jacobs suggested elected officials put together a comprehensive plan for growth, that they consider capturing Tax Increment Finance funds from the growth taking place north of town at the junction of Ind. 109 and I-70, and that they do whatever is necessary to address the town’s water and sewer needs.
“Infrastructure is important and that’s something we’ve tried to work on in (Spiceland),” Jacobs said.
He also encouraged community leaders to seek out partnerships that will benefit the town and to consider annexation to grow and broaden the tax base as well as the number of people using the municipal electric, water and wastewater utilities.
Knightstown Town Council member Clyde South said elected officials have been trying to address some of the points made by Murphy and Jacobs.
“We’re not going to get any bigger if we don’t expand. We’re not going to stay the same. We’re going to get smaller. We’ve got two choices, die on the vine or get bigger,” South said, adding that he thinks the town needs to concentrate on running utility lines to the 109/70 area to make it more attractive to new businesses.
Council member Valerie Trump also shared what she took away from the evening’s presentations.
“Knightstown is a great community. We’ve got a lot of positive things going for us and it’s ours to develop,” she said.