The HCLA Class of 2024 met on October 5th at The Hagerman Group to learn about Hamilton County’s Planning & Infrastructure. As we began our day, a quote stood out to me that best summarizes the impact this day had on me, “We are Hamilton County’s stewards for this period of time.” This was not only written down in my notes but underlined as well. It puts into perspective the legacy that we are a part of when it comes to living, working, and playing in Hamilton County. This class helped shed light on the intentions of each city within the county, and a window into their progress. This isn’t to say that this progress doesn’t come with its own challenges and conflict. What I love most about our class is its willingness to approach these conflicts with heart, integrity, and the sense of stewardship mentioned before. This class had a huge impact on me in three major ways: First, this class gave me a much-needed understanding of what Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is. Second, it exposed me to the opportunities that still exist in Hamilton County’s infrastructure. Lastly, this class provoked the question that has been deemed as our class’s spark- what about attainable housing?

I lied. I said I gained an understanding of what TIFs are. That’s not true. A more accurate statement would’ve been to say that I’ve begun to understand what TIFs are. The benefits of utilizing TIFs, and probably more impactful, what they mean for the shape and size of the future developments in Hamilton County. Utilizing Tax Increment Financing to develop our cities means generating more tax revenue for the infrastructure needed to support the development. It also allows for possibilities where once there were obstacles. Does that mean it’s easy to understand? No. Does it help balance the desire for growth with the need for sustainable infrastructure, yes. The successful implementation of TIF funded projects has inspired further developments that Hamilton County will see come to fruition in the future. As a Business Development professional in Commercial Furnishings, understanding the mindset and vision of developers is instrumental to understanding how best to serve the community as these projects come to light.

One of the most impactful parts of the day for me was our panel. We were fortunate to hear from Roscoe Brown from Hamilton County Express Public Transportation, Ed Bukovac from Citizens Energy Group, Stephen Cox from Indiana’s Office of Technology, and Jackie Hernandez from Duke Energy. This panel created clarity regarding the obstacles that stand in the way of progress for Hamilton County. The discussion was wide ranging, from water to public transit. The common thread, however, continuously tied back to this theme of stewardship. The responsibility that we bear to not just progress, but to progress well. Something I wouldn’t have thought that came to light was that every county in Indiana has an address without broadband internet access. This reality puts into perspective some of the privileges that we enjoy daily. For me, being enlightened about our communal opportunities inspires me to be more vocal, more active, and more engaged with those around me.

My biggest takeaway from the day, however, came from what we didn’t hear. As mentioned by a classmate in our reflection time, attainable housing, and an answer for the increasing gap in homeownership remains a looming threat around Hamilton County. All major cities have a profound focus on attracting businesses and large entities and are succeeding well in these endeavors. The more these developments happen, the more a need for housing arises. Unfortunately, it seems the focus has shifted away from housing developments. A shocking statistic shared by Andrea Davis from HAND states that a family earning nearly $100,000 would only be able to afford about 30% of new construction homes being built in Hamilton County. This should ring alarm bells to all those who hear it. A “man-made” problem that will require “man-made” solutions. Enter HCLA Class of 2024. It all comes back to the theme of stewardship.

Each time we’re together the picture of Hamilton County comes a little more into focus. I’m excited to continue this journey!