Rush County has its eye on people like Chris Holland. The senior at Rushville Consolidated High School is eager to open a business one day, and Rush County wants to entice Holland to do so at home.
The county is participating in the Hometown Collaboration Initiative (HCI), a partnership among Purdue Extension, the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs, and Ball State University. Program facilitators and trainers work with small Indiana cities and counties that want to enhance their local leadership, placemaking, or economy by building on existing assets.
Following HCI guidelines, members of the Rush County HCI team pulled together community members to analyze data, discuss strategies for economic improvement, and build a website—rushcountybiz.com—that gives current and budding business owners the tools to develop business plans, obtain loans or funding, network, and expand.
“We want to try to get millennials or others who want to open a business, grow a business, or sustain a business,” said John McCane, Executive Director of Rush County Economic & Community Development Corporation. “HCI was a healthy dialogue for our community. Those of us who are doing this all the time have finite views, but we were forced to bring new people into the conversation, and they brought in fresh ideas. The process is extraordinarily valuable.”
Holland, who participated in the community discussions, learned about resources available in his community, made valuable connections, and says information on the county’s new website is valuable to anyone interested in doing business in Rush County.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll find the resources you need here,” says Holland, who also attended the Indiana 4-H Entrepreneurship Academy (which Purdue Extension facilitates) in 2016, and dreams of developing apps that can help those fighting addiction issues.
“Everybody here is working to improve the economic and business well-being of the community.”
Even if rural communities agree upon a new vision, “change” sometimes resembles “challenge” with a few letters missing. Despite consensus, collaboration can be a struggle and a lack of community-wide buy-in can halt big, bold ideas necessary to move forward.
Enter the Hometown Collaboration Initiative (HCI) – Purdue Extension’s exciting partnership with Indiana state agencies and fellow universities to help communities and counties of 25,000 or fewer develop local leaders, grow business and entrepreneurship, or enhance community design and public spaces.
In the Hometown Collaboration Initiative, participants dictate their own pace through gathering and reviewing data, choosing a focus area, fostering broad-based community input and buy-in, and implementing capstone projects with positive, lasting impacts. Communities learn more about themselves through expert data, asset mapping, survey responses, and community forums.
HCI projects include a young professionals networking group, a county’s selection into the USDA’s Stronger Economies Together program for regional economic development, public art installations, and uniting leaders to commit $2.3 million toward community trails.
19: Total Indiana communities and counties participating in the HCI since 2014
377: Local partners and participants from participating communities/counties
968: Individuals attending discussion forums in 14 communities/counties that have completed HCI
9,000: Volunteer hours contributed by local residents to HCI, valued at $200,000
$16: Return for each $1 of HCI seed funds awarded to HCI communities
With ongoing annual community applications, the Hometown Collaboration Initiative continues to expand Indiana’s local leadership pipeline, enhance its economic assets, and provide strategies to improve hometown attractiveness and quality of life.
Through the HCI, Purdue Extension remains committed to long-term conversations about Indiana’s future. Using powerful data that forges paths to progress, the program helps residents navigate the challenges and opportunities of living and working in rural areas.