Diverse Opportunities in Indiana

Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership

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Hendricks County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Located on the outskirts of Indianapolis, Hendricks offers the economic opportunities of larger cities with a charm that comes from its smaller towns.
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The wealth of opportunities in a healthy economic environment has made Hendricks County a sought-after place for new businesses, particularly in the county’s prime industries, which include logistics, manufacturing, and biomedical. The motorsports industry has a large presence in the county’s racing town of Brownsburg, which holds the renowned NHRA U.S. Nationals every year during Labor Day weekend.

With such diversity in economic opportunity, Jeff Pipkin, Executive Director of Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership (HCEDP), thinks of the county as being similar to Mesopotamia in its optimal location.

“Back in historical times, Mesopotamia was such a fertile area because of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Hendricks County is somewhat similar. We have I-70 to the south of the county, and I-74 going to the northwest. Between those two interstates we have over 40 million square feet of industrial space for business. And we have the Indianapolis International Airport right at our back door,” he says.

HCEDP is a non-profit public-private partnership consisting of involvement from major employers, local governments, chambers of commerce, and other organizations. The partnership’s success is based on its collaborative approach and the recognition that the entire county benefits when any community within it becomes stronger.

HCEDP was established in 1990, when Hendricks County civic and business leaders came together to create an organization to facilitate local economic growth. Civic leaders initiated the EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) and allotted a portion to aggressively promote investment.

In 2016, the HCEDP worked on projects that totaled $257 million of new investment in Hendricks County. Fourteen new companies opened their offices in the county, and hundreds of jobs were created. For instance, Kohl.com chose the Hendricks town of Plainfield to open its fifth e-commerce distribution center. Starting this season and continuing over the next three years, Kohls.com plans to hire 300 full time and 600 part time positions at their Plainfield facility.

That same year, Avept Inc., a distributor of power sports and automotive parts, announced plans to open a warehouse in Brownsburg (the county’s racing hub), creating up to 118 jobs by 2019. For Avept’s job creation plans, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Avept performance incentives of up to $595,000 in tax credits and up to $55,000 in training grants based on the company’s job-creation plans, to be claimed once workers are hired. The town of Brownsburg approved additional incentives.

“Our communities have always prided themselves on being business friendly. They have been very aggressive and strategic with their attraction efforts,” Pipkin tells us.

Hendricks County also focuses on regionalism by working with other counties to ensure that new businesses have access to all the resources they need to achieve success. Lora Steele, Communications and Marketing Manager at HCEDP, says the HCEDP strives to keep communication lines open between the businesses and the towns of Hendricks County that are courting them, strategically placing the right industries in the right places during this time of high growth.

“All of these opportunities benefit our economic base and our business structure,” she says. “We are trying really hard to develop programs that will help with workforce development in the community. The Indianapolis region has a very low unemployment rate and Hendricks County is even below the already-low state average.”

Hendricks County is part of the Indianapolis metropolitan statistical area, and about 158,000 people call Hendricks their home. The unemployment rate is currently at a healthy 3.4 percent. Holding to the Mesopotamia metaphor, the desirability of Hendricks is not only in its diverse opportunities, but also the diverse quality of life. Between each of the charming and well-planned towns, Hendricks County has six top-rated public school districts that focus on preparing young people to become productive in the booming workforce.

Several towns comprise Hendricks County. To name a few, Avon, a town dissected by State Road 36, is known for its retail-based economy and small to medium-sized manufacturing companies, proving that you don’t need to be an industry giant to be successful opening up shop in the county. Roughly 70 languages are spoken in the town’s diverse school system.

Close to I-70 is the walkable town of Plainfield, which was founded by Quakers and exemplifies Midwestern values. The town boasts over 20 miles of paved trails and another top-tier school system. In fact, the Plainfield Community School Corporation is the only public school system in the State of Indiana to receive a four-star rating for two consecutive years.

The Hendricks County seat is located in Danville, which has the courthouse, the Hendricks County Museum, and several great restaurants and boutiques. The Mayberry Café is one of the town’s signature restaurants, which Steele tells us amplifies the small-town feel of the community.

A strong sense of community and satisfying work in a meaningful career are both necessary for overall quality of life. This is why Hendricks County has focused on creating well-planned communities optimized for business growth, in addition to helping residents find the careers best suited to them.

“We’re wrapping up on a five-year campaign called the INspired program, which has initiatives surrounding the way that Hendricks County can better diversify our business base and serve the current base,” says Steele. The INspired program (2015–2020) has increased new investments and brought new jobs to the community. Now, Steele says that HCEDP is focusing its efforts toward the pilot phase of a workforce retention project for the County.

“It’s not just about getting more bodies in the door; you also have to focus on the way you can keep those individuals interested in the work they do and encourage loyalty to the companies they’re working for,” says Steele.

Because Hendricks County has such a variety of opportunities for development in its unique towns, HCEDP strives to make sure that residents are equipped to embrace new career opportunities. In 2009, HCEDP partnered with Hendricks College Network, or HCN, which is a nonprofit dedicated to serving Hendricks County residents as a resource for postsecondary education. But the “C” in the acronym isn’t just for “college”; it also stands for “career” and “connection”—whatever information residents need to pursue opportunities.

HCN offers personal assistance for potential students when selecting the type of education they desire, whether it is a postsecondary degree or technical training. Its website contains information for students looking to apply for relevant scholarships. HCN also helps both businesses and job seekers find the personnel or company that is the best fit for them.

Hendricks County has been successful at attracting satellite campuses of different postsecondary institutions into the county in recent years. Now, the county has a strong postsecondary presence, including the Vincennes University Logistics Training and Education Center, Trine University’s Indianapolis Regional Campus in Avon, Indiana State University’s local MBA program, up to and including Doctorate courses at Oakland City University, and many classes from Ivy Tech Community College.

Other innovative programs such as Project Lead the Way (a national nonprofit that develops STEM curricula for elementary, middle, and high schools) and the Area 31 Career Center introduce high school students to fields with strong demand. Area 31 gives secondary school students a jump-start for the workforce by allowing them to attend career preparation classes or earn college credits for a half-day, and then spend the rest of the day at their home high school.

With an educated and trained workforce, Hendricks County will be able to take advantage of the high-demand jobs available during this period of significant infrastructural development. The town of Brownsburg is now revamping its downtown quarters with a five-story apartment development, a $25 million dollar recreation center, and a $4.8 million dollar office project. But the office building, to be named Brownsburg Office Suites, will be designed to attract entrepreneurs, startups, and solo ventures, rather than large businesses per se.

Additionally, Pipkin informs us the county’s electrical co-ops have recently installed fiber optics in their systems so they can communicate between substations, and is now opening that up to their members. “This will give the ability for fiber optics to reach some of the more rural areas of Hendricks County that typically would not have it for years, until development had reached there,” he says.

As Indiana’s technology sector continues to grow, tech startups craving a small-town ambience without having to sacrifice the infrastructure needed to develop their businesses may want to look to Hendricks County. HCEDP welcomes the opportunity to work with businesses outside of Hendricks County’s mainstay, foundation industries.

“Maybe you don’t think of Hendricks for your industry, whatever that might be, but it would be worth considering us. If somebody is interested in entering the tech world or building their tech headquarters—something that we don’t currently have—it’s valuable to look at our county because it’s something that we could easily fit in,” Steele says.

August 24, 2017, 12:57 AM EDT

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