To Grow or Not to Grow

What Kind of Future Do You Want for Morgan County?

Written By: Robin Reid

Did you know Morgan County’s population growth has remained stagnant at one percent since 2010? With an estimated current population of 70,000 that equates to roughly 700 new people moving into the county every year. Also, our county continues to fall behind in economic development because it lacks capacity, primarily the people and space, to attract new businesses.

How does this impact you as an individual or a family?

If there is no growth in Morgan County, whether it’s new people and/or businesses moving in, those of us living and working here today will be expected to produce more on the job and likely pay more money to maintain or update current infrastructures such as utilities, roads, and schools.

Morgan County needs more young families moving into the area to ensure our communities have a prosperous future.

“In Morgan County, it’s important for us to figure out how to grow the population. Dr. Michael Hicks, a professor at Ball State University, said if we’re not seeing population growth, we have to generate a greater amount of productivity with the current workforce and that can be a difficult thing to do,” said Michael Dellinger, Executive Director of the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation.

According to Dellinger, other cities such as Noblesville and Zionsville, that were once small towns like Martinsville, eventually recognized the need to attract new people and businesses and then implemented growth plans, including increased capacity, to make it happen. Today, both cities are thriving economically.

“I wish I had a clicker in my mind for every time an individual or company or capitalist looked at moving to Morgan County, but couldn’t find the space, whether it was a home or building they needed, and they went somewhere else. If we had more space, we could be growing and more productive.”

When asked how do we attract more people to the area, Dellinger said we need more space to build homes. Martinsville has an unusually large number of rental properties and this takes away a family’s ability to buy a house. Last year, there were approximately 170 to 180 new, single-family plots developed, but it’s not enough. “I would like to help Martinsville and all of our communities find a way to build capacity for our kids who leave the area, like going off to college, and don’t return. With more housing and job opportunities, these kids will have the choice to come back where they’ll be making money, spending money and investing their money in Morgan County,” he added.

Businesses not only look at the local infrastructure when deciding to move into a community, but also consider population, space with the ability to expand, education system and more.

“Things have changed in local government finance over the years that schools are now funded mostly on a per-student basis. As more children enter the classrooms, the more funding schools receive from the state. I would suggest that if our school corporations want to grow and flourish, they need to be making the argument for more housing developments in Morgan County to sustain and grow our education system,” said Dellinger.

Our students benefit greatly when the population increases because schools receive more funding to enhance programs, classrooms, and more.

When schools receive more funding, our children benefit because they can take advantage of new programs to enhance their learning, continue playing in the marching band, participate in sports, and more. At the same time, schools can provide more training to teachers and staff and keep facilities and equipment working properly.

New businesses, according to Dellinger, like to find communities that invest in re-investing themselves. “Martinsville has a unique opportunity right now, especially with the I-69 project, to repaint its portrait and set a new direction for this community. We need to grow the population by more than one percent each year. If growth was three percent a year, roughly 2,000 to 2,100 new people, that would mean a greater tax base, more people involved in civic activities and more stable employment opportunities for companies,” he added. “If the county isn’t growing two to three percent a year, then we’re not staying above the tide and the need for a workforce, meaning we’re expecting more productivity out of current employees.”

Dellinger believes if the work doesn’t start now to build capacity to attract new people and businesses, we’ll continue to experience an economic decline in the future. Infrastructure costs will continue to go up. For example, Martinsville residents recently started paying more for water and sewer services.

“We can’t do anything until we create the capacity to do something,” Dellinger said.

The Community Foundation of Morgan County (CFMC) believes in the work of the Morgan County Economic Development Corporation to bring more people and businesses into our communities. We also recognize that existing companies, such as manufacturers, have a tremendous need for skilled employees. These jobs come with great pay and there are schools, such as Ivy Tech, who offer the necessary training and certifications.

To learn more, please contact CFMC at info@cfmconline.org or call (765) 813-0003.

CFMC’s mission is to connect donors and their charitable giving with our evolving community needs in order to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations through impact grantmaking. The vision of CFMC is to be the philanthropic leader and a catalyst in order to maximize available resources in our community.

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