Catalyst group outlines plans at Chamber breakfast

Spencer County Leader ~ Tuesday July 2, 2013

by Dean Bolin

What should Spencer County be like five years from now? Ten years?

A group of residents formed late last year to find answers to those questions.

They call themselves The Catalyst Group and they served as guest speakers at the Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce Breakfast meeting held June 27 at AEP Honey Creek Farm.

Ken Mulzer, Jr. spoke to the group of twenty-some who attended the meeting. He said the group formed because they were concerned about some troubling aspects developing in the county.

The county is changing, and those living in it may not see trends as they are developing. Nonetheless, these quiet changes will have a huge impact on the county Spencer will be in the future.

For instance, Spencer County has always been known as an agricultural county. Though that remains true, it does not mean the same as it did even ten years ago in terms of jobs. In 2001, the county reported 802 people were working jobs in the agriculture sector. Ten years later, that number is 682, a 15% drop.

County residents overall are aging. In the most recent census, one age demographic group, 65 and older, increased by 20%. Worse, the ages 25 to 44 year demographic, the group most likely to be rearing children in this time, dropped by the same percentage.

This mean young adults are leaving the county and not returning to raise their families here. The Catalyst Group wants to know why.

This drop also affects what county residents have been justifiably proud of – the two school systems. With the recent changes in how schools are funded, the shrinking school age population threatens the funding needed to maintain the schools' excellent reputations. Last year, the school systems taught 104 less students than the year before. This year, preliminary numbers show the schools will have 62 less students in classrooms.

Moreover, as expressed in the meeting, some businesses here are having difficulty attracting people to the county to fill current job needs buy levitra uk. Also troubling is that the residential new home construction rate has dropped 65% since 2003.

To curb these trends, the Catalyst Group met with Spencer County Council last November to express their concern, to discover ways to reverse the trend and to find out how county government can help in the effort.

Since then, the group has compiled possible names to consider for future political positions. Earlier in the year, the Catalyst Groups also held an informational session about government operations and training for newly elected government officials.

The current effort is an ongoing series of surveys to find out what people think is effective and ways to improve the county to attract more people.

Three surveys are currently underway – resident (those living in the county), non-resident (those outside of the county) and government officials. The survey can be accessed at and can be completed in as little as ten minutes online.

The non-resident survey is of particular interest, as this may capture that 25-44 age demographic and provide clues as to what is needed to bring these people into the county. Mulzer encouraged people to have their children and grandchildren currently living out of the area to complete the survey.

On the resident survey, the results are currently skewed as more people from North Spencer have completed the survey than those in South Spencer. So far, respondents have been in the economic category of earning over $100,000 per year, which is not reflective of the entire county population. Everyone in the county is encouraged to complete the form, as all opinions are valuable.

So far, the surveys indicate people would like county government to find ways to encourage small business development and continue its efforts to address “eyesore” properties. The preferred job opportunities respondents would like to see brought into the county are in lodging, food service, and manufacturing. Other needs emerging are for more commercial shops and restaurants.

Later this summer, (dates have not been set), the complete survey results will be used to help develop a county-wide strategic plan. There will be more information on this as details are set.

In the meantime, those who have not taken the survey are encouraged to do so, and those wishing to become involved in the Catalyst Group can contact Gene Steinkamp at 812-549-7524 for more information.


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