Hitting the road

GREENFIELD — Most Hancock County residents still head out of county for their jobs; but as the population grows, so does the number of residents who work locally, according to figures recently released from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The largest number of Hancock County residents who work in central Indiana — about 46 percent — commute to Marion County. In both 2010 and 2013, more than 15,000 local workers commuted there, though the number decreased about 700 during the three-year period.

During the same period, the number of local residents working in Hancock County grew by about 3 percentage points, or 1,300 workers, and about 200 more commuters drove to Hancock County for work.

The slight increase, from 35 to 38 percent, lines up with overall growth in the county, local officials say. And they hope it’s a trend that continues as more businesses choose to locate in Hancock County.

In February, John Morrell Food Group began building a facility that will create 260 jobs in Mt. Comfort. Three months later, Stanley Black & Decker announced plans to create 130 jobs by expanding its operations in Greenfield.

Skip Kuker, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, said that, as the county grows, more local jobs are created, giving residents more chances to find work. An increase is a good sign, he said.

The large number of out-of-county workers is probably attributed to people having jobs elsewhere but wanting to settle and raise a family in Hancock County, he said. It is smaller and generally safer than Marion County, Kuker said. And the cost of living is lower. Those factors make it an attractive place to live, he said.

“Why wouldn’t you want to live here? It’s a great place to raise a family,” he said. “It’s a personal choice. Maybe they’ve grown up in this area or they don’t want the big-city lifestyle.”

For resident Cherie Burrow, the decision to live in Greenfield and drive 30 minutes to downtown Indianapolis every day was easy. She’s been making the commute for almost 30 years.

Her husband was raised in Greenfield, so after graduating from Ball State University in 1985, she moved to his hometown and began looking for a job in Indianapolis. And she’s lived in Greenfield ever since.

She chose to work in Indianapolis because jobs are generally better-paying, she said. She works in the finance department of a law firm.

“Nothing beats the small town of Greenfield,” she said. “It’s a wonderful little town, and I enjoy the benefits of working in the city and driving into the city on the weekends if we want to do something.”

And the commute generally isn’t bad. It takes about 30 minutes if the weather’s good and there are no traffic incidents, she said.

For the 12,500 residents who live and work in Hancock County, a short commute is an advantage, Kuker said.

Kuker lives just a few minutes from his office in downtown Greenfield. He’s close to his daughter’s school, should she get sick and need to be picked up. And he works alongside his neighbors.

“I’m proud to live and work here,” he said. “I have a five-minute commute. I think it benefits me; I get to spend more time with my family.”

Greenfield resident Niki Nolen grew up in Hancock County and graduated from Mt. Vernon High School. After graduating from college in 2007, she hoped to be able to move back to her home county.

She now lives in Greenfield and works for Hancock Physician Network. She said she loves her seven-minute commute and working in the community where she lives.

“My family has always been in Hancock County, so I knew it was a community I wanted to stay in to raise a family,” she said. “I wanted to work where I live.”

The total number of workers employed in Hancock County is about 20,000, meaning about 62 percent of workers are Hancock County residents.

The increase in Hancock County workers might also be attributed to an increase in population. In 2010, there were 70,045 residents, according to the Census. Census estimates for 2014 show there are 71,978 residents.

As more Hancock County residents worked in their home county in 2013 than in 2010, the number of Indiana residents who commuted to Hancock County for work also grew. In 2010, about 7,200 Hoosiers commuted from their home counties to Hancock County for work; in 2013, that number grew to more than 7,400.

Kuker said a number of factors likely attract people to look for jobs in Hancock County. Jobs available in Hancock County generally come with good benefits and pay, he said.

And easy access to Interstate 70 makes commuting to Hancock County easy, he added.

“I think we’ve become a place people don’t mind commuting to,” he said.

Pull Quote

“Why wouldn’t you want to live here? It’s a great place to raise a family.”

Skip Kuker, executive director of Hancock Economic Development Council

How many commuters?

More than 7,400 residents from 23 Indiana counties drove into Hancock County for work in 2013.

More than 2,300 of those Hancock County workers live in Marion County.

In 2010, 7,259 residents from 26 Indiana counties drove into Hancock County. More than 2,600 of those workers came from Marion County.

Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.