Marc Adams Woodworking School Impacts Johnson County Economy

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 7.11.22

An unassuming structure located on a county road near Whiteland is actually a school that teaches woodworking and a variety of other creative skills, one that attracts students and instructors from across the country and around the world. And these often-repeat visitors to the Marc Adams School of Woodworking are making a positive impact on Johnson County hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

Who knew?

“We bring in renowned master craftsmen from all over the world who typically have a following of students who come to our school,” owner Marc Adams explained, adding that students also learn through word of mouth about the school, which does not advertise. “Surprisingly, less than 1 percent of our students are from Johnson County or Central Indiana.”

This translates into what Adams describes as “huge” impact on the local economy. “Students typically are here for five days, so there’s demand for lodging, meals, gas, school supplies and other items. Our school is by far the largest tourist destination in Johnson County, and we have a high rate of students returning here for more classes.”

“This year the school is offering students more than 240 workshops, potentially generating 15,000-18,000 hotel room nights,” Adams said. He added that students typically stay at hotels in Greenwood, Franklin, or Indianapolis. Many of the hotels in the area offer discounts for those visiting the school.

The Fairfield Inn in Franklin hosts students on a regular basis said Dan Jones, regional director of sales for General Hotels Corp. “Marc Adams has been a fantastic partner to work with. With their weekly classes and trainers, they have provided hundreds of room nights, that has resulted in over $4,000 in revenue primarily during the week over a 12-week period.”

“The students and trainers have been wonderful guests and continue to come back,” Jones added. “We look forward to a great relationship and expect them to continue to grow in Johnson County.”

A popular restaurant among instructors and students alike is Bargersville’s Our Table American Bistro. Executive Chef and owner Joe Miller put it this way: “The school has had multiple positive effects on Johnson County and our restaurant. The students, instructors and staff are passionate about creating beauty and learning from the very best. I had the pleasure to be a part of this community as their chef in 2020 while building and planning for Our Table.”

“During their busy season, the school has brought nearly 3,000 people into Johnson County. Students and instructors stay for a week or longer. They need to eat, a place to lodge, and gas for their vehicles, and they meet all these needs with Johnson County businesses. Many of the students, staff and instructors have supported Our Table and dined there or stopped by our Saturday Market in the summer and fall.”

Miller added, “Marc and his team designed and built our beautiful walnut bar. Several students have gifted us Our Table signs they designed and built that we have displayed in our restaurant and on our website.” Miller is teaching a workshop at the school later this summer on Seafood & Sauces: The Art of Prepping, Paring & Plating, which is already sold out.

A variety of local merchants, too, benefit from the school’s activity. “We provide our visitors lunch, which is prepared at the school.” Adams said, “All of our food is purchased locally, either through fresh produce stands or grocery stores. Art and hobby stores also see business from the school as students come to purchase supplies for their classes.”

One local business benefitting from the school is MacBeath Hardwood Co. of Edinburgh, which supplies cherry, poplar and maple wood from trees grown in a 100-mile radius of the plant. “Marc has a lot of classes, and he orders different types of wood from us depending on the types of courses he has planned,” said David Whitehouse, who manages MacBeath’s export and inside sales.

“The school definitely has a positive impact on the Johnson County economy,” Whitehouse added.

Does participation in these programs ever lead to new careers? “Yes, possibly hundreds of people,” replied Adams. “One of the most recognizable would be my son-in-law. He was originally from Chicago working on a degree in construction management. He came and took a few classes here and within a few years had completed his master’s here and then became an intern. He now runs his own furniture studio in Whiteland.”

Next year, the school celebrates three decades in operation. Adams, who enjoyed woodworking early in life, decided to start the school as a way to encourage young people to study the trades. But he was surprised when the people who started enrolling were on average 60 years old. “Our goal now is to create an environment where people have fun creating things, learning new skills and making new friends.”

“Tourism is an important driver of the Johnson County economy, accounting for $183 million in direct spending and an overall $255 million local economic impact,” concluded Aspire President and CEO Christian Maslowski. “Mr. Adams’ business success is an important contributor to this impact and helps support small businesses.”

Maslowski added that tourism dollars being spent in Johnson County impact not just Aspire members but all businesses in the area as well. Likewise, the school provides learning opportunities and recreation for local residents and those of Central Indiana.