2015-07-14 09.28.38

Trails, like this one in Lebanon, connect communities and people.

August 5th, 2015 – LEBANON, Ind. – Letter to the Editor

As a young professional, your economic developer, and most importantly, a Boone County native, I am encouraged that the City of Lebanon is considering maintaining the Farm Heritage Trail for the benefit of all of Boone County.

I am a millennial, and there are certain things I consider when choosing a community in which I want to live. Yes, I look at the schools and the housing market. But more importantly, I want to know the community is alive. Are people out and about? Are amenities such as coffee shops, farmers’ markets, and trails available? This is how I connect with others and how I relax, and if a community does not offer those amenities, then I may look elsewhere.

As the executive director of the Boone County Economic Development Corporation (Boone EDC), my first priority is to bring in new businesses to Boone County and to help existing businesses grow. There are many factors that go into a company’s location decision, but one simple way we can begin to attract employers that pay higher wages is by focusing on quality of life issues such as trails. Yes, quality of life is subjective and not easily quantified, but its importance should not be diminished. Economist Richard Florida argues that up to 30% of our nation-wide workforce are members of the Creative Class. These employees fall within either the “super-creative core” in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), arts, or design fields, or in the creative professional class, those in the healthcare, business, finance, legal, or education sectors. When we talk of bringing in higher paying jobs, these are the sort of positions we have in mind. These individuals often choose where to live first and where to work second, so what we see in some cases is that the employer goes where the employee is. Therefore if the community doesn’t focus as heavily on quality of life issues, it becomes difficult to lure the creative class to live there and the employer to locate there too. This is why quality of life is critical to Lebanon’s and Boone County’s economic success.

Ultimately this plan is about projecting what our future could be and imagining what the Farm Heritage Trail could be for Lebanon and Boone County residents. It is heartening to see our elected and community officials aiming higher. An even better Farm Heritage Trail will not fix all of our problems, nor will it be the sole reason why a company or individual chooses to locate in the area. What an improved trail system will be though is one more tool we can use to show why Boone County is the best place in Indiana to live, work, and play.

Molly Whitehead
Executive Director
Boone County Economic Development Corporation

#BetterinBoone / @BooneEDC