SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Attracting the next generation can be challenging for any community. That's why a group of young professionals is working together to decide what other people their age, and younger, want in the community.
The newly formed group, called Backyard Shelby, contains close to 15 people from a variety of industries in Shelbyville and Shelby County.
Finding solutions to keeping young people has been a long-time question without an answer for the community roughly 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, according to Blue River Community Foundation Executive Director Amy Haacker. Backyard Shelby believes it has the right people to find the answer.
"We decided to convene a group of people who were already involved and that we knew were really optimistic to make Shelbyville or Shelby County their home," Haacker said.
The group feels it needs to lower the average age of the community, or risk becoming a ghost town down the road.
"It absolutely could happen," said Haacker.
The group has held a few meetings already to brainstorm, and is planning some formal proposals, possibly by the end of the month. It's optimistic it can build on some of the attractions the town already offers.
"The city has put a lot of money and effort lately into building this fantastic trail system that goes all along the river that connects all the parks," Haacker said.
Leann Smith just finished a bike ride on the trails and agreed there should be a focus on attracting young people to her community.
"I think it will be a forever evolving thing," Smith said. "I think things we do now help maintain, but we will have to evolve just like their desires evolve and it will be ever changing."
Most of the improvements the group is looking at include areas along the Blue River, where the town has formed a waterfront district.
"The Riverfront Taproom is a brewery and a great restaurant with a huge outdoor dining area," Haacker said. "They have live music every weekend. That’s part of the riverfront development district which includes our historic downtown."
Downtown is the other big focus, where some currently empty buildings would make for some prime areas for new businesses to go in that target young people, according to Haacker.
Haacker's office could be asked to fund some of the projects that will target new, young professionals. Haacker said the foundation won't necessarily be making young people a priority when it comes to decisions because the new attractions the group would suggest are likely attractions for everyone.
"What we are finding is baby boomers want a lot of the same things that millennials want," Haacker said. "They want walkable communities and great places to sit outside and enjoy live music. It’s not just for one age group. We do feel like it benefits everyone."