Continuing to Communicate the Strengths of Johnson County

Writer  /  Julie Yates
Photographer  /  Forrest Mellott

Launched in 2013 as a program of Johnson County Development Corporation, Aspire Johnson County’s promotion of the county and its communities has yielded tangible results. It is staffed by interested volunteers who have a sincere love for the area along with the dedicated leadership team of Co-chairmen Larry Haydon and Brent Tilson, Cheryl Morphew, Dana Monson and Gail Richards.

The program’s work is never finished and continues to broaden and evolve. What began as an initiative to make Johnson County a great place to live, work and play has added the facet “learn” to the list. The organization has developed into three active focus teams: Infrastructure, Placemaking and Talent. It also meets monthly as a large group.

Vehicle to Promote Johnson County
Monson, Aspire Coordinator, along with Morphew, President and CEO of Johnson County Development Corporation, work together to achieve the goals of the organization. While Morphew is involved with long range planning, Monson handles the day-to-day scheduling of meetings and works on moving projects forward.

Monson describes Aspire as a vehicle that opens discussions, imparts knowledge and enables residents to make their county a great place to live. She stated, “Attraction of businesses involve lots of drawn out work behind the scenes. However, most jobs come from retention and expansion of existing businesses. Aspire is the leg of community development that promotes communication that Johnson County is a good place to live, and that makes it attractive to both new and current businesses.”

Having the foresight to realize that employers want to locate in communities that attract potential employees is something that Monson credits Morphew for. “Cheryl knew from her research that companies are aware of the mindset of Millennials,” Monson explained. “This age group looks at regions and then chooses where they want to live. Quality of life is important to them as well as finding a great place to raise children.”

She further elaborated, “Johnson County has six wonderful school corporations that collaborate and work together. There is also a wide variety of housing in several diverse communities ranging from the executive homes in Center Grove, rural residences in Bargersville, small starters in Greenwood and the historic houses in Franklin.”

Living and Playing
Several successes have been achieved in communicating the diverse amenities and amusements that the county has to offer. Although residents know the area is a great place to live and play, many people outside the county do not. The Placemaking Team solved the problem by tapping into resources on the Internet.

“Three years ago, it would not have been possible to find anything about Johnson County on the Internet. Today, there is the Aspire website and a Facebook page,” said Monson.   

In addition, the team has recently started to upgrade the Journey Johnson County website as a destination marketing tool.

Another important accomplishment was the establishment of a monthly Leadership Lunch where officials from the county’s varied communities can become more aware of local happenings and even have the chance to foster collaboration on issues they share.

A Great Place to Work
An important accomplishment of the Talent Team is their involvement in an annual career and education conference for middle school students and their parents. Four hundred people attended the first Community Career+Education Forum in 2014, and the event grew to 900 participants in 2015.

The emphasis of the forum is advanced manufacturing, health sciences and information technology. Area manufacturers and post-secondary educational institutions set up booths and activities to inform students how they can train for a job located right in the region with minimal debt. Recently the Talent Team met to plan a panel discussion of former Ivy Tech and Central Nine students. This future meeting will promote the value of career and technical education for students.

Learning about Issues
Bringing people together for the purpose of imparting knowledge to enable better planning is one of Aspire’s strengths. The organization does not advocate for one side or another but aims to foster communication that enables the community to consider long range plans involving businesses, residents and visitors.

“We have the unique opportunity to plan for future growth, so it will benefit the community and add to its strengths,” states Monson. The Infrastructure Team has been active in researching the proposed I-69 expansion. A large community meeting was held, and residents had the opportunity to ask questions about such things as how the project would be funded and the implications of land use.

Although many of Aspire’s successes are noticeable today, the full results of the program’s work may not be visible for several years. “We are planting seeds now and putting a foundation down,” says Monson. “We don’t know how far reaching our work might turn out to be.”

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