Aspire releases five-year plan for economic success

Aspire releases five-year plan for economic success

Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance exists to drive economic development and business success in Johnson County and southern Marion County. The organization has released a new five-year strategy to position the region for continued economic success.

Designed as a blueprint for collaboration among the public, private, not-for-profit and education sectors, the plan begins by offering clear targets to achieve within the next five years:

  1. Attract and develop 50 percent more occupations in advanced industries in Johnson County by 2025.
  2. Grow the average annual wage by 15 percent to the benefit of workers at all income levels by the next five years.

Last year, Aspire formed a steering committee of community and board members to provide guidance and leadership for the planning process. The committee, comprised of leaders from the public and private sectors, represents business, economic development, chambers of commerce, planning and government interests. Aspire then engaged local experts from Plaka and Ginovus, who provided facilitation, research, qualitative and quantitative data and guidance to the steering committee to support development of the plan.

Dozens of community and business leaders provided guidance and feedback as well. Aspire President & CEO Christian Maslowski praised the teamwork required to complete the plan and stressed the importance of working together moving forward.

“We are seeking to align Johnson County’s economic base with the advanced industries super sector,” said Maslowski. “Doing so will require successful collaboration from leaders representing all of Johnson County’s sectors. This can be Johnson County’s differentiator, and Aspire’s plan provides a road map to get there. I’m very proud of everyone involved in this effort and excited to begin working toward our goals.”

To achieve identified benchmarks, Aspire’s plan offers five goals and accompanying strategies.

Goal #1: Drive Innovation to Boost Business and Industry Development

Strategies to achieve this goal include tailored approaches to target advanced industry cluster initiatives. This includes business attraction of advanced industries and upstream/downstream supply chains; increased functionality of incentives for high-impact projects and recalibration of other incentive matrices; pinpointing exporting opportunities for both the existing industry base and advanced industries; identification and promotion of existing small-business assets in the region; and creating and deepening existing systematic and synergistic relationships between industry and university/college research and talent development.

Goal #2: Boost Site Development for Catalyst Projects

Strategies include strengthening the infrastructure in the area, including broadband, roads, water, sewer, electricity and natural gas and extending them to strategic sites along commercial connectivity nodes; studying and implementing plans for transportation and transit corridors, including impacts from I-69 development; and launching a planning forum to help Johnson County’s elected leaders, planning department staff and economic developers identify and implement best practices in planning and development.

Aspire seeks to align Johnson County’s economic base with advanced industries. (Submitted photo)

Goal #3: Nurture Community Collaboration and Engagement

Strategies include reinforcing regionalism by expanding and deepening communication channels among community partners; creating and/or supporting youth and young professional civic engagement initiatives to develop long-term community-enhancing policies; and providing support and mentoring to young professionals seeking public office.

Goal #4: Embrace and Pursue Opportunities for Enhanced Livability and Quality of Place

Strategies include collaborating with housing stakeholders to understand issues and develop solutions; establishing community conversations focused on inclusivity and engagement of other cultures and demographics; investigating availability and quality of health care and mental health services and their impact on employers and workers; and encouraging small-business development to increase locally owned retail establishments and restaurants.

Goal #5: Magnify and Deliver Robust Education and Workforce Endeavors

Strategies include prioritizing organizational partnerships with university and college stakeholders; increasing talent connection to 21st century skills; providing incentives for graduates and adult workers to pursue STEM occupations in advanced industries and other high-wage, high-skilled fields in Johnson County; and supporting workforce initiatives for military veterans.

“Johnson County is at an economic frontier,” said Ginovus Executive Managing Director Larry Gigerich. “Residents and businesses face serious challenges, such as global slowdown as part of the normal economic cycle, an aging workforce and dangers to some industries due to technology changes. The goal of this plan is to build upon the opportunities that change presents.”

Aspire designed the plan with a focus on successful implementation. Each action item includes potential partner organizations and key metrics, with milestones over the next five years.

“Connectedness is part of the Johnson County DNA and encompasses community members working together toward a common goal with an understanding that the success of one boosts the success of all,” said Plaka Founder & CEO Courtney Zaugg. “Given the momentum developed by this planning process, and leaders’ commitment and energy, we are confident Aspire will successfully carry this plan forward.”

The full plan can be viewed and downloaded at

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