Far-sighted community leaders are thinking beyond the current economic expansion to industry mixes that can sustain prosperity well into the future.
Thomas P. Miller & Associates is using a new concept called community resilience to help Elkhart and Dubois County in Indiana diversify their bases in order to thrive in the long term while retaining and expanding their core businesses.
Though located at opposite ends of the state, both places are manufacturing-intensive. Elkhart relies heavily on the highly cyclical recreational vehicle industry after a pharmaceutical plant closed, and musical instrument and manufactured-housing operations contracted. In Dubois County, office furniture dominates thanks to nearby forests rich in veneer-quality hardwoods.
Both communities recognized the risks of their top-heavy employment bases and turned to TPMA for help in learning how to diversify.
Community resilience, with its focuses on making communities healthy and innovative, is a key concept in helping the communities plan. Five characteristics are common to resilient communities:
- Economic diversity. Several different industries stabilize the economy.
- Deep human capital. Resilient communities collaborate across sectors toward common goals and develop reservoirs of talent.
- Community vitality. Human needs are nourished by attractive places.
- Agile infrastructure. Communities update and maintain housing, roads, and utilities including broadband service, using sustainable practices.
- Environmental preparedness. Natural resources are considered economic development tools, while being preserving for the future.
Through TPMA guidance, Elkhart is tackling economic diversity through the lenses of industry and business development; workforce; and land use and infrastructure. Complimentary industries under consideration include automation and autonomous vehicles.
Dubois County discovered that it can circulate more money in the community by filling gaps in supply chains. The county also can encourage other industries that use wood and expand into industries that play on the county’s strengths.
Elkhart and Dubois County are planning at a time when their economies are strong. Other communities can benefit from preparing for the future, too. To learn how, contact TPMA today.