Being well-rounded in terms of recreational options is important, he added.
“Communities that have diversity of things are more likely to be attractive than places that just have one big activity to engage in,” he said. “These components tend to be things that support communities doing lots of smaller things that transform their ability to attract households.”
Hicks noted that there are a lot of positives locally, including The Portland Foundation
(the second-oldest of its kind in the state), the quality of Jay Schools, John Jay Center for Learning
and a relatively stable population base.
But he also warned that about 30 percent of jobs in Jay County are considered to be at high risk of being sent overseas and about 62 percent are at risk of being lost to automation. Both of those numbers tend to be high in communities heavily involved in manufacturing, which accounts for about 35 percent of Jay County’s jobs. That’s about five times the national average and 3.5 times the state average.
Hicks encouraged JCDC members to focus more of its attention and energy on making the community attractive to potential new residents rather than expending most of its energy trying bring in a new big factory.
“If pursuit of a new big business is your sole economic development strategy, then prepare for failure, because that’s what’s coming,” he said, noting that on average a community would be able to attract a 500-person business to relocate about once every 32 years.
He added that growth is far more likely through the expansion of existing business or development of a news business by a local entrepreneur.