Preparing for Growth
Writer / Jim Eichelman
Photographer / Forrest Mellott
On April 23, a group of interested Johnson County residents attended the first of four Community Conversations, sponsored by Aspire Johnson County. This group was organized with the mission “To make Johnson County a destination to live, work and play” and focuses on four key areas: 1) Talent Retention and Attraction, 2) Branding, 3) Infrastructure and 4) Quality of Life. These Community Conversations are an opportunity for area residents to learn, share and engage in dialogue that can help shape Johnson County into the place we want it to be.
A lot of discussion has occurred recently regarding the future path of I-69 as it makes its way from Martinsville to I-465. Therefore, a natural focus for the first conversation was infrastructure.Sarah Rubin, the INDOT project manager for I-69, Section 6 (the portion impacting Johnson County), summarized first quarter 2015 accomplishments and planned second quarter activities. In addition, she described the public involvement to date and shared milestones for the remainder of the project.
Some information was new to me. For example, a Project Office was established at 7847 Waverly Rd. in Martinsville. The public is invited to visit for detailed information about the project and to share comments and concerns. I also didn’t realize that the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) now underway includes both natural and human impacts. Therefore, it is not just “wetland and air quality concerns,” but also things like land use, traffic patterns, existing development and the impact on delivery of emergency services and schools.
One misconception I have always had was considering farmland as “empty space,” but from the project’s perspective, they consider it as developed property, much like commercial development. A draft EIS is targeted for Q1 2017 with the final EIS (requiring federal highway approval) set for Q1 2018. After that, the actual construction work can begin.
Larry DeBoer from Purdue University spoke second on “Paying for Infrastructure in Johnson County.” Larry described the various funding mechanisms available to Johnson County for funding infrastructure improvements, including several alternatives to property tax increases.
In addition, he shared data that showed how Johnson County compares with the rest of Indiana in terms of various demographic and financial considerations. One takeaway for me was although I complain about taxes in this county, living here is quite affordable, and we get a lot of “bang for our buck.”
Finally, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight shared recent economic development and revitalization successes in their city. He demonstrated that with thoughtful planning, innovative thinking and creative economic incentives, a municipality can create an environment of sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life while lowering government spending.
Details about the first Community Conversation is on Aspire’s website, aspirejohnsoncounty.org/conversation-no.-1, including copies of each speaker’s presentation, answers to questions submitted by the audience and links to other helpful information regarding infrastructure in Johnson County.
I encourage you to visit this site to become informed and consider participating in future Community Conversation sessions.
Cradle to Career
Writer & Photographer / Jim Eichelman
On May 7, the second of four Community Conversations was held in the Greenwood High School auditorium. Sponsored by Aspire Johnson County, these Community Conversations are an opportunity for area residents to learn, share and engage in dialogue that will help shape the future of Johnson County.
This conversation, entitled “Cradle to Career: Multiple Pathways to Career Success,” brought together Johnson County residents and experts in education to understand what it will take to achieve career success and live a fulfilling life in today’s society.
The evening’s speakers were Dr. David Dresslar, executive director at the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning, and Molly G. Martin, director of organizational learning and alignment at Lumina Foundation. These two experts walked us through what is required to succeed today, how that differs from the past and how both young and old can prepare themselves.
According to Dr. Dresslar, when he began teaching in 1969, guidance to students was “get good grades, graduate from high school diploma, get a good job and join the middle class.” By 1996, the guidance was “get good grades, graduate from high school, go to college and get a four-year degree, get a good job and join the middle class.” A high school diploma was no longer enough to succeed. A four-year college degree was now the entry ticket into that middle class.
Today, things are different still. Both experts agree that good grades and a high school diploma are a basic requirement for success. That is just the starting point. Ms. Martin indicates, “63 percent of job openings will require some postsecondary training beyond high school by 2018.” However, that training does not necessarily mean a four-year college degree.
Both experts believe the first step to career fulfillment is identifying a field you find interesting (for example, healthcare) and explore the types of jobs available within that field. Continuing the healthcare example, not every job in healthcare is a doctor or nurse. In fact, most jobs are not.
Other patient care, technologist, technician, therapist and administrator jobs abound. Some may not be what school counselors have traditionally encouraged students to seek, but they are good paying, respectable jobs that will allow someone to live a fulfilling middle class life.
Once you identify likely jobs, then research the training required to qualify for those jobs. This may be apprenticeships, certificates, associates degrees or traditional bachelor’s/masters/doctoral degrees. Duration of training can range from a few months to several years.
However, both Dr. Dresslar and Ms. Martin emphasize that employers are not as interested in where you obtain your training as they are what you know and what you can do. Credentials from prestigious schools are not a prerequisite to obtaining a good job today.
Final thoughts for the evening focused on what the experts called “21st century skills.” These are skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and communications and are highly sought after by employers. When considering options for preparing yourself for a 21st century career, the speakers recommended considering programs that allow development of these skills as well as technical knowledge.
For more information about the second and upcoming Community Conversations, visit aspirejohnsoncounty.org.