Aspire Community Development Teams Pursuing Major Projects in 2021

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 2.1.21

The trio of Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance community development teams are moving ahead with major projects in 2021 as part of an effort to have a positive impact on Johnson County. Many of your fellow Aspire members are hard at work on these teams.

“Our volunteer teams are filled with leaders who are passionate about the community, have a heart to serve, and are an instrumental part of Aspire,” said Vice President of Economic Development Amanda Rubadue, who oversees Aspire’s community development affairs. “With Aspire’s new the 5-Year Economic Development Strategic Plan providing a track for us to run on, their efforts – in concert with those of our community stakeholders – will help us to really move the needle on these big goals we have.”

Aspire Community Development Specialist Jennifer Hollingshead coordinates the work of the teams, providing leadership to the volunteers and their projects. She summarized the activities planned for each team in 2021:

Community Engagement – This team is working to promote use of local parks in Johnson County. “One of the projects we’re developing is a scavenger hunt to encourage residents to explore their parks,” Hollingshead said. “We plan to complete the project by summer so families can get out there and enjoy their green space.” She added that the team also is continuing work on Community Conversations, which are “kitchen table” talks with local leaders and residents to discuss how they want to improve Johnson County. This project is being conducted in partnership with the Johnson County Public Library and involves discussion of 10 questions. “The library will create a report by the second quarter to share the top themes of the conversations,” Hollingshead noted. “It’s important to gather thoughts from local leaders and residents on life in Johnson County and how it can be improved.”

Talent Attraction + Retention – The major project for this team is creation of an online resource for parents and students to learn about alternative careers not requiring a college diploma. The team already is working on the site with the Johnson County Public Library, Hollingshead noted. “It will include videos and interviews with young people who have entered trade careers and why they pursued them,” she explained. “The project is important because of the need to provide young people career choices and to fill the skilled workforce requirements of current and new industries in Johnson County.” The overall goal of the program, set to launch in the spring, is to inform students and their parents and to improve collaboration between educators and businesses.

Growth + Planning – This team is engaging community leaders to explore attainable housing inventory shortages in Johnson County. “We’re looking to form a housing alliance composed of representatives of the community, industries and non-profits that see the impact of the lack of attainable housing to get a handle on the situation and determine possible remedies,” Hollingshead explained. “Our team’s work is important because we are bringing together many different organizations and voices to address this problem, which has been made even worse in recent times by the pandemic.”

“With the new year comes fresh opportunities to join one of these teams,” said Rubadue. “Aspire members are welcome to sit in on one of the meetings to see how they work and consider how they might contribute as a volunteer.” She added, “We’re looking for team members who want to engage and work with our community stakeholders to help determine how to turn goals into reality. Volunteers don’t need any particular expertise, just be willing to give two or three hours per month to make an impact on their community. They are vital to the work of Aspire, digging into issues to help improve the quality of life in Johnson County.”

“Membership on these teams is open to all and Aspire members are encouraged to become involved,” Hollingshead noted. For more information, members can contact Jennifer Hollingshead at or 317-537-0037.

Meetings can be found on the event page of Aspire’s website. Aspire continues to hold meetings via Zoom but hopes to resume hybrid or in-person meetings later this year.