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LETTER: HTC committees hard at work as year begins

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Perry County is participating in the Indiana Hometown Competitiveness Program based on a successful application submitted by the Perry County Chamber of Commerce. The program empowers hometowns to enhance their prosperity and quality of life. IHTC is operated out of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs and is based on a similar program that began in Nebraska to help their communities that had been shrinking for more than 100 years.

Indiana HTC has five pillars: youth, leadership, entrepreneurship, charitable wealth and rural families economic success. Pillars are areas of focus found to be important to rural community success.

Ferdinand has participated in the program since 2008, and we can all relate to the successes they have experienced with their economic boom just off the interstate.

Currently, each pillar is assessing the current state of Perry County in their area of focus.

The assessment will ensure due diligence of where we are. The pillars will use the assessment data to determine needs and opportunities to be pursued. The assessments will include surveys, interviews, focus groups and reviewing current plans.

Tara Bishop is leader of the youth pillar. The pillar is working to:

• Engage youth in and making them feel part of our community

• Encourage youth to come back to our community upon completion of their education

• Recruit young adults back to the community

• Encourage youth entrepreneurship

The pillar has gathered information with a survey for young people from Perry County that live elsewhere (57 surveys returned) and a survey for current students (746 surveys returned).

Data was also gathered through focus groups that were held the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to speak with Perry County graduates currently in college (34 students attended).

One focus group was held in Tell City and one in Leopold.

The youth pillar has reviewed all the data gathered and is creating a list of opportunities and projects to take into phase two of the Perry County HTC Program.

Chris Cail leads the leadership pillar. This pillar is working to:

• Grow the next generation of leaders for the community

• Influence positive change in the community through enhanced leadership

• Evaluate and improve existing community leadership programs

The leadership pillar had 112 surveys returned and is currently reviewing the data.

Phil Wittmer is heading up the entrepreneurship pillar. This pillar is working to:

• Encourage existing businesses

• Encourage and educate local community members to start businesses

• Attract entrepreneurs to the community

• Assist in “transition planning” for retiring business owners

This pillar had 216 surveys returned and held focus groups in Cannelton, Leopold, Troy and Tell City. This pillar is currently conducting personal interviews with entrepreneurs that were unable to attend the focus groups and reviewing the survey data.

Emily Winter is pillar leader of the charitable wealth pillar. Other pillar members are Julie Huber Bishop, Glenda Gogel, Sally Houzanme, Rebecca Fenn, Jamie Hoesli, Martha DuPre, Rita Mahoney and Tina Ziegelgruber. This pillar is working to:

• Encourage residents to leave a portion of their estate to the community

• Strengthen the tradition of community charitable giving

• Support and strengthen the community foundation in the county

The charitable wealth committee sent a mailing to 500 residents throughout Perry County townships that included a survey and had 263 surveys returned. The committee is currently reviewing the data.

Mary Roberson is the pillar leader of the rural family economic success pillar. Other pillar members are Tom Hauser, Mary K. Cardinal, Joan Hess, Harriett Neill, Bill Borders, Gerald James, Lisa Lutgring and Chris Kinnett. This pillar is working to:

• Enhance and strengthen family services offered in the community

• Address the issue of poverty in the community

• Help families experience economic success

• Increase long-term financial stability for families

This pillar conducted a survey with 187 responses so far and is currently still collecting.

Our contribution will help fund the projects that surface from the data collected. A public “Opportunity Retreat” is required of the program in mid-January. At this event, the public will be able to sign up for the projects outlined and contribute more data to clarify findings.

Thank you for your assistance while we are working for a successful Perry County. A public meeting is scheduled for February. Watch The News for details.

CHERIE TAYLOR
Executive Director, Perry County Chamber of Commerce; Coordinator, Perry county Hometown Competitiveness Program