Community Development Teams Recap Progress, Move Forward to 2022

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 12.21.21

Aspire’s trio of community development volunteer teams has focused on quality of life and workforce development efforts related to Johnson County’s economic development strategic plan items this past year, and they are working to move the plan forward in 2022. Several dozen volunteers serve on these teams, all working toward a goal of making a positive impact on Johnson County.

“Our volunteer teams are an extension of Aspire and are integral to achieving our strategic plan goals,” said Vice President of Economic Development Amanda Rubadue, CEcD who oversees Aspire’s community development activities. “Our plan was built with the expectation that a community of volunteers and business leaders would all work collaboratively to move the needle. The Aspire staff would not be able to do what they do without our amazing volunteers!”

Aspire Community Development Specialist Jennifer Hollingshead coordinates the work of the teams, providing leadership to the volunteers and their activities. “Projects that the volunteer teams are working on are all related to our 5-Year Economic Development Strategic Plan to benefit the entire community — local stakeholders, business leaders and the community at large,” Hollingshead explained.

Hollingshead summarized the activities of each team during 2021 and into 2022:

Growth + Planning – This team focused on housing, transportation, and entrepreneurship to learn more about supporting the existing community and the workforce of the future. The team is studying these areas:

  • Exploring housing which meets the needs of the growing population of Johnson County: the focus has been to learn what the needs of Johnson County and then to find ways to match that with options.
  • Meeting the transportation needs of employees working in and around Johnson County to help find ways to make broader transportation options available, in partnership with various transportation providers like Access Johnson County and IndyGo.
  • Encouraging growth of an entrepreneurial spirit among college and secondary school age students through partnerships with Franklin College and local schools.

Community Engagement Team – This team focused on quality of life with projects to bring awareness to local amenities and engaged the community on what makes our county better, welcoming, and inclusive. This year’s major efforts included:

  • Continued its “community conversations” in partnership with the JCPL and presented a final report to community stakeholders and at the Aspire Community Matters program.
  • Hosted Aspire stakeholders at a workshop on allyship.
  • Coordinated the “Great Park Quest” with all parks departments in Johnson County, JCPL and the Historic Artcraft Theatre to offer a summer family activity, highlighting the parks in June and July.

Talent Attraction + Retention – This team has focused on all avenues of workforce development to learn more about what programs are available to local companies and what gaps need to be addressed. The team is pursuing these areas of workforce development and their related programs and needs:

  • Exploring Talent pipelines, including connecting veterans and refugees with Indiana employers, and considering connecting to folks leaving the criminal justice system.
  • Training programs such as the 180 Skills online training for the manufacturers and the JCamp Early College Program with Ivy Tech and local schools.
  • Talent Attraction programs, including partnering with the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters on a trades forum and coordinating with local schools on a teacher/counselor summer bus tour of local businesses.

Team Co-chair Stephanie Amos said, “Our team is committed to understanding the needs of the Johnson County community and its employers. We’re looking at the pathways and tools for employers to find workers, especially the ‘hidden talent’ workforce and how to connect with them.” She cited as examples: veterans, those incarcerated and willing to “skill-up” before release, and those with disabilities.

“We’re trying to become a convener for high school students and employers, exploring opportunities for internships, for instance,” Amos added. “Right now, we’re gauging the interest of teachers in taking a bus tour of local industries this summer to see and understand more about them and the opportunities they offer for their students.”

Looking ahead to 2022, Amos said her team will meet in January to determine specific plans for the year. “We want to design our work to align with Aspire’s 5-year plan, its goal and its strategies. Our team meets monthly to see how we can move the needle in that direction.”

The team works closely with Ivy Tech, where Amos serves as a vice-chancellor. “The team and the college share some common goals,” she noted. For instance, Ivy Tech aligns its programs with the manpower needs of high-demand industries. Amos added, “In Franklin, Ivy Tech is building a Flex Lab for advanced manufacturing and robotics. The college plans to convert an unused warehouse and build out the facility at a cost of $500,000 and then spend $1 million on equipment. This is truly investing for the future.”

Volunteer team meetings are open to members of the community to attend, Hollingshead noted, and they can sign up at the Aspire events calendar to attend the team meeting that interests them. Team meetings are held monthly. Details on the teams and their activities are available on the Aspire website.

“We’re always looking for new team members who want to bring their skills to the table,” Rubadue concluded. “We need team members who can help develop goals and then turn them into reality. It only takes two or three hours a month, time that will literally make a positive impact on the Johnson County community and quality of life here.”

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