Leading the Way
Tipton County Chamber Executive Director is Excited About City’s Future
Writer / Matt Keating
Kegan Schmicker, executive director of the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce, is leading the way for the future of Tipton, especially during a time of revitalization.
“I was hired in August of 2020, and officially started this position on September 1, 2020,” Schmicker says. “There is always a natural transfer of leadership in communities. Still, I believe the transition in rural communities happens later, because rural communities typically export their labor force to the job centers adjacent to them. This means that there are typically fewer younger people willing and capable to accept the leadership positions in the community. However, I think we are seeing more people who want to participate in Tipton because of the passion and desire to see Tipton be a vibrant community again.”
Schmicker says 2021 will be a rebound year for Tipton.
“Having served as an economic and community development consultant for the late Mayor Don Havens in 2019, I can share that Tipton had a great deal of momentum heading into 2020,” Schmicker says. “In 2019, the City of Tipton built a splash pad, renovated its city pool, launched a downtown revitalization project, and established a Riverfront District. I had some level of responsibility with each of these projects, and each project focused on creating a more vibrant community.”
Schmicker says 2020 brought a great deal of hardship.
“At present, Tipton is still trying to determine how it will recover and what those next steps are,” he says. “The momentum and excitement created throughout 2019 were all rooted in the idea that we were building a vibrant community that the present residents could enjoy.”
Schmicker has positive hopes for the future.
“In five years, I hope that the City of Tipton will have refocused its efforts on creating a vibrant community, and that we will have achieved 75% of the ideas created in our Downtown Revitalization Plan,” he says. “In five years, I expect that the City of Tipton will have implemented a variety of quality-of-life initiatives that are helping to attract the residents to our community to provide the population stability we require. All of this is possible for the City of Tipton, but we’ll need the community to continue working toward the efforts started throughout 2019.”
Schmicker believes the revitalization of Tipton begins and ends with its people.
“Our current population projects do not paint a pretty picture for Tipton,” he says. “I believe we need to focus on the quality-of-life initiatives to attract people to our community by building a better community for those who already live here. Tipton has a great downtown area with tremendous potential that requires reinvestment for both public and private entities.”
Schmicker believes Tipton’s residential areas could use some reinvestment from both new and existing residents that could be spurred by local government and partnering agencies.
“I think leaders often believe that the starting block for a prosperous community begins with attracting new business,” he says. “We are reminded time and time again by the thriving communities throughout the United States that all thriving communities start with people, and the pursuit of building a community people enjoy living in.”
Schmicker also believes Tipton needs to be different.
“No one likes a copycat, or someone who is disingenuous about who they are,” he says. “Tipton needs to recognize its value in being a great bedroom community to the large counties surrounding us. Tipton can be the great, small community where people raise their kids, go out to dinner, shop, commune at our park amenities together, play sports, and send their kids to school. Many people view being a bedroom community as a derogatory term. Still, Tipton is in the middle of everywhere and can be the most prosperous bedroom community in Indiana.”
Schmicker says examples of other small communities in Indiana who have excelled, or are in the process of executing a quality-of-life strategy, include Fortville, Seymour, Madison, Huntingburg and Danville.
“Each of these communities exports between 65% to 93% of their available labor force, and Tipton County exports nearly 77%,” he says. “Our circumstances are not unique, but our strategy getting there can be with creative thinking. There is no silver bullet for rural communities in Indiana, but honoring our values and beliefs, and finding projects that highlight them as opposed to challenge them, will make us successful.”
Schmicker has seen positive signs of reinvestment in Tipton.
“The old Citizens National Bank is getting redeveloped, which has sat vacant for nearly four years,” he says. “Another landmark property known as Comptons has an opportunity to get redeveloped if a public-private partnership can be established. There is activity happening on the east side of Tipton, with possibly two new businesses opening. Plus, Tipton’s rich history as a strong entrepreneurial community still holds true with a variety of new businesses being planned and/or launched.”
When he has free time, Schmicker, the son of a carpenter, enjoys renovation projects, and is also passionate about golf.
“Though my passion exceeds my playing ability, I do enjoy playing with my wife and friends whenever possible,” he says. “Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention my daughter, Rio. She just turned 1 year in January and she has transformed our lives. The amount of energy a new child brings into this world is quite incredible, and she has been an amazing blessing to us.”
For more info, visit tiptonchamber.org.