State, Local Communities Hope to Turn Workforce Population Declines

Estimates show most rural Indiana counties will lose a significant portion of their workforce by 2040 and state policy makers are taking notice.

Blackford County in northern Indiana is set to be the hardest hit—the study estimates they could lose nearly 40% of their workforce population.

Stakeholders discussed how to retain talent at Indiana University’s Rural Conference in French Lick Tuesday. It’s a big challenge in rural areas that often lack the amenities businesses and younger workers want. 

That’s why the state is trying to help those communities improve what’s called quality of place. 

The term is broad, but includes investments that help make a location more livable, like new trails, shopping, venues for the arts and restaurants.

Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) plans to funnel $100,000 in grants to help communities enhance their culture.

Colette Childress is a Project Manager at OCRA. She says she’s confident state resources will lead to results.

“OCRA really wants to focus on creating and retaining talent in Indiana,” she says. “We really want to grow that talent in Indiana and especially in rural, and we want to create places where people want to be.”

According to the study only 14 counties are expected to grow their workforce population over the next 25 years—many of which surround large metropolitan areas.