By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — TIPTON – It was the quality of education that attracted John Woods to Tipton County. The recent transplant from Ohio said its location also was a factor in the family’s decision to relocate to Indiana.
But, Woods said, when he contacted the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce about job opportunities, he was told there are better jobs in Kokomo and Elwood. This comment raised the interest of several in a group of about 25 people who attended the first meeting of a Tipton County task force on attracting and retaining families.
The task force is one of four designated by the Tipton County Local Economic Development Organization (TCEDO) to promote economic development. Jeff Hoover, a manager at the Bottcher America plant in Tipton, even asked Woods to contact him about a possible job.
“How do we get people to consider moving to Tipton County?” asked Jeff Sheridan, executive director of the TCEDO.
Group members cited low crime rates, good school systems and youth programs as attractive selling points. Several people noted there is only one licensed child care provider in Tipton County, and there is a need for additional preschool programs. They pointed to a lack of retail shopping as another possible negative.
“There are two factors when a business looks to locate,” Sheridan said. “The number of homes and the amount of traffic coming through a community are what businesses consider.”
Sheridan said the county needs to grow, and when the Chrysler transmission plant opens in 2014, the hope is more people will decide to move to Tipton County.
Resident Mike Baden agreed the county needs growth, but added it must be quality, limited growth.
The county is not projected to grow, though, Tipton Mayor Don Havens pointed out. Actually, the population of the county is projected to decline by 10 percent by 2037, an amount that Havens said would have a huge impact on the community.
Havens said young families are attracted to a community by the quality of the educational system.
“The task force should partner with the schools to improve the quality of education,” he said.
If the two school systems in the county were considered two of the best in Indiana, it would attract young families to the area, Sheridan added.
Havens advocated for additional investment in recreational facilities, stating most are located in the southern part of the city, including the school, park, hospital and fairgrounds.
The challenge, said Commissioner Joe VanBibber, is getting the people of Tipton County to agree to higher taxes in order to provide a higher level of public services.
“Five-cents on the tax rate would raise $420,000,” he said. “Think of how those funds could be used to create county parks. Our approach is wrong; we need to spend money to provide better services.”
As it moves forward, the task force will look at the capabilities of public utilities, how to make a case for Tipton County in attracting families and improvement of the quality of life.