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Data drives understanding, decisions

Data drives understanding, decisions Data drives understanding, decisions
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

Data informs, helping people better understand the world in which they live. Data drives actions, allowing businesses, government and communities to make informed decisions.

Those attending the annual meeting of the Crawford County Economic Development Partnership heard a great deal of data concerning the county as Carol Rogers shared information from the 2020 Census. The meeting took place Sept. 16 at Patoka Lake Winery.

Rogers is co-director of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and serves as the governor’s census liaison. She said data is important.

“There’s so much value in looking at information and trying to understand basic things,” said Rogers. “ … Sometimes we ignore the obvious and think everything’s so complicated and we’re not smart enough to understand. But it boils down to some basic things you need to know about your community.”

People may not ever consider how many toilets are flushed daily in their town, how many children are entering schools or how many vehicles traverse local roads. Such data, said Rogers, “gets to the heart of how much funding local government is going to have to have to do what needs to be done.”

Population-wise, Crawford County is small, and it got smaller during the past decade. The county’s population declined by 84, from 10,713 to 10,629. Crawford ranks 87th among Indiana’s 92 counties by population. The county has 305.6 square miles, and the population per square mile is 34.78.

Rogers told those present Crawford is by no means the only county with a declining population. Statewide, 49 counties lost residents.

“Many counties declined in population,” said Rogers. “I think the state needs to start addressing this. The majority of counties are losing population.”

Marengo is the largest town in the county with 808 residents. English, the county seat, has 627 residents. The Crawford County half of Milltown totals 431 people. Leavenworth has 234 residents, and Alton has just 54.

Rogers said the sad news is that Crawford County’s mortality rate is higher than average.

“The natural increase — births — wasn’t enough to outnumber deaths,” she said. “Crawford is on a list of counties being watched demographically to see if the (population) decrease continues.”

Rogers said while Crawford County’s population skews older, all age categories are well represented. The census found the following: 609 residents age 0 to 4; 1,704 age 5 to 17; 715 are between 18 and 24; 2,313 are 25 to 44; 3,097 are between 45 and 64; and 2,200 are 65 or older. The median age is 44.8.

“The likelihood you’re going to bump into a kid is much smaller than bumping into someone over 50,” she said.

If the birth rate continues to decline, that will be exacerbated.

The census also found that most households identify as being married without children; 1,406 in all. There are 569 households that are married with children, 197 single-parent households and 1,104 who live alone

“I suspect those are older people,” said Rogers.

The 2020 Census results show there are 5,592 housing units in the county with 3,168 owner-occupied. The median home value is $92,000, and the median rent is $433.

“It’s affordable to live here,” commented Rogers.

Per capita personal income is $35,054, and median household income is $44,332. The poverty rate is 16.5%, and 24.4% of children live in poverty.

Rogers said the labor force is adequate, as that number is usually about half the population. Crawford County’s labor force is 4,849. A small number of people, 343, are unemployed.

The majority of residents who commute to work travel to Dubois or Harrison counties in Indiana or to Jefferson County, Ky.

Top employment sectors in this region are furniture, local health services, local education and training, hospitality and real estate/construction/development. Major employers are Caesars Southern Indiana hotel, OFS Brands Inc., Masterbrand Cabinets Inc. plant, Jasper Engines & Transmissions and Best Chairs Inc.

The census has political implications as districts are redrawn following it. Rogers said Crawford County will likely be in a new Congressional district, moving to the Eighth district from the Ninth.

Rogers said she favors a regional approach in tackling issues and noted the interdependence of Crawford, Dubois and Harrison counties. She suggested looking for more ways to collaborate.

“We can all benefit,” she said. “Each county is different and has different pros and cons. None of us is an island.”

Rogers praised Crawford County’s natural beauty.

“The huge thing you have here is an attractive place to live,” she said. “It’s beautiful, walkable and discoverable.”

As part of the program, Mike Thissen, economic development director, gave a brief recap of the past year. He said 2020 was a tough year, but tourism in the county fared very well. Thissen noted that economic development and the tourism commission received a $22,500 grant through a regional effort which will further promote what the county has to offer.

Personnel changes at the offices were noted. Sharon Wilson, long-time tourism board office manager, departed. Thissen praised her years of service and devotion to Crawford County, noting she has been a true ambassador for the county.

The new tourism office manager is Kaylee Gildersleeve. There’s also a new marketing director for economic development filled by Mandi Elliott.

Thissen also praised Jesse Crecelius, who works as a grant writer for the office and who made sure the county got the entire $342,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds from the federal government.

Thissen said he’s excited to see groups in both Milltown and Leavenworth organize to explore ways to improve their communities.

The economic development office continues to cultivate regional partnerships. Local highlights for Crawford County during the past year include the announcement of a Love’s Travel Stop at the Interstate 64 Carefree exit, improvements to the industrial park and the recent news that Patoka Lake Winery plans to expand.

Thissen said his office doesn’t work only with businesses, but lends a hand to individuals seeking to hone job skills or start a business.

“If you need a job or want to start a business, that door is open to anybody,” he said. ‘We’re here to help.”