Economic development more than bricks, mortar

Economic Development is defined as “efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community.” In the minds of many people, economic development stops with the first part of this definition, “improving economic well-being.”

While this is incredibly important, it tells only part of the story. The other part of the definition in regards to “improving the quality of life” may be even more important in some circumstances. The current situation in Hancock County is a good example of this.

With the leadership of Skip Kuker and Connie Schmidt, our county has been phenomenally successful in bringing new industry to our region. Our population has been growing right along with that investment, and we are one of the fastest-growing areas in the state of Indiana, but we could be welcoming even more people to our county if the quality of life were increasing as fast as the financial infusions.

The concept of quality of life is related to the standards of health, comfort and happiness experienced by a community. Until last year, Hancock County had been 27th in comparison to all counties in Indiana in terms of its health ranking; today, we are sixth.

Some of this is due to favorable demographic changes with young people moving into the region, but it is also associated with intentional efforts on the part of our governments, businesses and health care providers to foster the “Healthy 365” initiative.

This movement is focused on making Hancock County the healthiest county in the state of Indiana. That progress has been made toward this goal is evidenced by the designation of “Indiana Healthy Community” by the Wellness Council of Indiana (part of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce), one of only two counties to receive the designation so far.

In addition to health, comfort and happiness are associated with quality of life, and these are in turn highly associated with access to amenities that enhance the lifestyles of the residents of a community.

These include great schools, public libraries, medical facilities and churches. Access to shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Close proximity to swimming pools, parks and walking/biking trails — to name just a few.

The future of economic development in Hancock County must maintain a focus on both improving economic well-being, and on improving quality of life. With this dual focus, we will welcome even more neighbors to our region and service businesses, like Hancock Health, will continue to prosper.