The Hamilton County Leadership Academy Class of 2023 met for the Workforce & Economic Development Class Day at the newly renovated Carmel Clay Public Library in Carmel, IN. We were greeted by Beth Meyer, Assistant Director of Carmel Clay Public Library. Beth kindly welcomed us into their renovated space, adding approximately 50,000 square feet of space to the facility. The expansion included a new children’s area with dedicated programming spaces, a technology hub with access to cutting-edge equipment and software, additional meeting rooms and study spaces, and an expanded collection of materials. The expansion has allowed the library to better serve its community and provide a modern, welcoming space for patrons of all ages to learn, connect, and explore.
I’d like to thank the Veridus Group for sponsoring the class day. The Veridus Group has a team of experienced professionals who have expertise in a variety of policy areas including healthcare, education, transportation, and economic development. Their goal is to help clients achieve their goals by building strong relationships with policymakers and advocating on their behalf. (One of their recent projects includes the expansion of the Carmel Clay Public Library.)
After introductions, we kicked off the day with Henry Mestetsky, Director of the Redevelopment for the City of Carmel, and the Executive Director of the Carmel Development Commission (CRC). Henry led a breakdown to allow our class to have a better understanding of TIFs. TIF stands for Tax Increment Financing. TIF is a type of public financing used to encourage economic development in an area. It works by freezing the property tax revenue at a certain level and allowing the municipality to take any additional revenue that is generated by increases in property value over the next several years and investing them in projects to improve the area. The City of Carmel has been the beneficiary of several TIF projects that have helped to make it one of the most desirable places for people and businesses to live. TIF has been used to fund a variety of projects that have helped to improve the quality of life in the city, from new housing developments to public parks and trails. TIF has also been used to fund projects in Carmel such as the City Center project, Monon Trail extension, the Midtown District, the City Center North project, and the Carmel Arts and Design District. TIF has helped to create a vibrant and attractive city that has become a destination for people and businesses. To learn more about the CRC and their projects, citizens can visit: www.choosecarmelin.com.
After our class got a better understanding of TIFs, we had the pleasure to learn and interact with our local Hamilton County chamber of commerce including: Bob Dubois with Noblesville Chamber of Commerce; Steve Latour with Westfield Chamber & Downtown Association; Steve Nelson with Northern Hamilton County Chamber of Commerce; and our very own Class of 2023 classmate, Jack Russell, with OneZone Chamber of Commerce (which represents both Carmel and Fishers as a combined chamber). It was neat to hear from each of the chambers to better understand their forward-thinking contributions to help the businesses and communities grow by being a connector. It was interesting to see how each chamber has different challenges and focus areas based on the citizens and businesses within their cities.
As the morning concluded, we got to participate in an economic development case study led by the Economic Development Director for the City of Fishers, Megan Baumgartner, and the Community Engagement Manager for the City of Noblesville, Aaron Head. The class split into the two cities, Fishers, and Noblesville, and had a portion of class time to create their proposal to a global pharmaceutical manufacturing company exploring options to open a new North American facility. Both cities worked diligently to provide the best proposal to the company in hopes to win their company over and move them into their city. I had the pleasure to be a part of the strategy team that represented the “City of Noblesville” in this activity. We were able to learn our recently gained knowledge of TIF, be counseled by Aaron, and weigh the pros and cons of offering tax abatements for real/ personal property, cash grants, waiver of impact fees, reduction of land prices, and aid with infrastructure and utility construction to put our more attractive proposal together. I am pleased to write as a Noblesville native, that the City of Noblesville indeed won the challenge! (Disclaimer: This case study was for educational purposes and is not currently being reviewed by either municipality.)
Following lunch, our class was greeted by Mike Thibideau, President & CEO of Invest Hamilton County. Invest Hamilton County is focused on empowering economic vitality for the county’s businesses and residents. This is accomplished by fostering collaboration, leading with quality research, and implementing workforce development and quality of life priorities across the county. Mike gave a bird’s eye view of the status and health of the workforce in Hamilton County. I was delighted to hear that despite national news coverage, our local workforce is in desirable shape. We captured a great deal of statistics that paint the picture of workforce development in our county. From 2017 to 2022, jobs increased by 10.7% in Hamilton County, IN. This change outpaced the nation’s growth rate of 2.4% by 8.3%. As the number of jobs increased, the labor force participation rate decreased from 72.0% to 69.2% between 2018 and 2022. Additionally, Hamilton County had a December 2022 unemployment rate of 1.65%, decreasing from 2.72% 5 years before. Invest Hamilton County has many initiatives going on that will continue to aid and drive workforce & economic development in Hamilton County such as: The Pursuit Institute, job board postings on SkillFit, Mental Health & Workforce Series, Hospitality Employment Initiative, and more. I encourage anyone interested in workforce development in Hamilton County to check out Invest Hamilton County’s website to learn more: www.investhamiltoncounty.com.
Later that afternoon, our class was introduced to our next set of panelists: Nancy Heck, Director of Community Relations and Economic Development for the City of Carmel; William Knox, President of Legacy Sports Group; Katy Preidt, Economic Development Manager for Duke Energy; Kelley Stacy, President and CEO of SMC Corporation of America; and Dr. Stacy Atkinson, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Hamilton County. The group shared a lens of their perspectives of the class day’s topic. The perspective shared by Duke Energy made me realize that with all of the wonderful growth happening, there is a rockstar company ensuring that the development has the energy and power source necessary. Dr. Stacy Atkinson also shared a wonderful perspective that Ivy Tech Hamilton County is a great resource for someone to start the exploration process of what professions interest them or for any person to level up their skills to chase their next goal in their career.
While I wrap up this post, I cannot miss a chance to supply an action item and a way to get involved for those who are passionate about helping workforce & economic development in Hamilton County. Our class had the pleasure to learn more about the Trinity Free Clinic from Executive Director Mel Wischmeyer and Deputy Director Cindy Love. The Trinity Free Clinic is a nonprofit organization based in Carmel, Indiana, that provides free medical and dental care to uninsured and underinsured individuals in Hamilton County and surrounding areas. The clinic offers a range of services, including primary care, chronic disease management, mental health counseling, and dental care. The clinic is staffed by a team of volunteer physicians, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare professionals, who donate their time and expertise to provide quality care to those in need. The Trinity Free Clinic relies on donations and grants to fund its operations and is committed to serving those who would otherwise not have access to healthcare services. To learn more on how to volunteer or donate visit: www.trinityfreeclinic.org.
During the class day we gained an understanding of TIFs, heard from several representatives in different sectors of the county regarding their workforce and economic development efforts, got a hands-on experience through participating in an economic development case study with our peers, and learned the role of chambers and what each chamber is focused on in their respective parts of the county. I’d also like to thank our 2023 Class Dean, Karen Radcliff, for always promoting and leading strategic and inspirational discussions. I conclude by stating that as a citizen and young professional in Hamilton County, I am so proud of the leadership and companies that represent Hamilton County and am thankful for HCLA and the opportunity it presents to learn more about the community I call home.