By JOE BOALS
In this current economy, many communities face the challenge of finding and building talent. Not just in the workforce, but every facet of the community.
That’s why Grace College teamed with Ball State University, Bowen Center and several other Kosciusko County organizations to host “Competing for the Future,” a conversation within the community for building world-class talent. Nearly 200 community and business leaders joined with 60 high school students from both Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley high schools as well as students from Ivy Tech to listen and discuss the issues facing Kosciusko County.
One of the speakers at Tuesday’s event included Aaron Renn, an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst from Laconia, Ind. He discussed talent and place in Kosciusko County, and the challenges that are faced.
“Kosciusko County has basically kept up with the country in job creation,” said Renn. “In a state that is falling behind, you have kept up with and even surpassed the country in job creation. That is something I would personally feel good about.”
Another strength of Kosciusko County is the per capita income, which finished 2010 higher than the state of Indiana. However, one area that the county falls behind in is the percent of adults aged 25 and older with a college degree. Nearly 20 percent of Kosciusko County residents have a college degree, behind the rest of the country at nearly 28 percent. And there lies the key to a community’s success, according to Renn.
“College degree payment is overwhelmingly determinant in a community’s success, particularly when it comes to income,” said Renn, speaking to not only the students. “That is not, as you might think, just because people with a college degree make more money. In a community with more college degree people, everybody makes more money. Even the high school drop-outs make more.”
Christon Clark, an attendee and also the executive director of Habitat for Humanity for Kosciusko County, shared his thoughts during a break between sessions.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity that the leaders in the community are trying to engage the overall community in furthering the county,” said Clark. “We have 60 high school students and about 20 college students that make up roughly half the audience, the future generation. And that’s the big key.”
Clark added, “I’ve been here in Kosciusko County for one year and I’m really interested in how the leadership of the county is going to sustain itself and the county into the future as these kids graduate and go off to college.”
Attendees also took part in table-side breakout sessions and discussed between students, businesses and leaders on how to value talent while being a community of choice.
Also speaking were Jim Walker, Big Car founder and Warsaw native, and Mark Dobson, president and CEO of the Warsaw-Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce.