HEDC staffers complete economic development course

HEDC staffers complete economic development course Main Photo

29 May 2024


Two Hancock Economic Development Council staff members completed an extensive economic development course this month, equipping them with knowledge and connections to help them excel in their roles.

HEDC Community Development Manager Erica Boswell and Operations Manager Anna Voorhis spent May 13-17, 2024 in Muncie for the Indiana Economic Development Course from the Ball State University Miller College of Business Indiana Communities Institute.

The course is accredited by the International Economic Development Council, an organization that accredits over two dozen such courses offered across the country.

Ball State University describes the program as “a foundational course for entry-level economic developers, allied professionals, community leaders, and volunteers.”

HEDC Community Development Manager Erica Boswell, left, competes in a Family Feud-style game at the 2024 Indiana Economic Development Course. Photo courtesy of Reneisha Rudder.

Throughout the week, a diverse and experienced faculty of practitioners and academicians covered key elements of economic and community development. Some included:

  • Managing economic development organizations
  • Professional ethics
  • Strategic planning
  • Data
  • Small business and entrepreneurship development
  • Economic development finance
  • Leadership
  • Workforce development
  • Community and neighborhood development
  • Business retention and expansion
  • Marketing and attraction
  • Real estate development and reuse
  • Housing

“It was an all-you-can-eat buffet of economic development appetizers,” Voorhis said. “I found it extremely informative. Ball State put on a great course–fast paced, well ran, and very organized.”

Ball State University offers the course every year, and the HEDC was keen to send its two newest employees thanks to scholarships generously provided by the Indiana Municipal Power Agency.

Coming from a career in community development, Boswell was eager to learn about economic development perspectives as well as the similarities and differences between the two disciplines.

“How we approach everything depends very much on what our goals and objectives are,” she said. “Economic development goals and objectives sometimes align with community development work in the nonprofit space, and sometimes they don’t, which is fine and how it should be. I was very interested in understanding those different goals, the ones that align, and what the different approaches are.”

The HEDC officials joined dozens working in economic development and related professions at the course, providing ample opportunities for networking. Boswell appreciated being able to interact with instructors and students to learn how they overcame challenges she faces in her work.

“I really enjoyed that a majority of the instructors were people in the field in our state, and getting to hear and learn about real-life applications, and be able to follow up in more detail, and consult with them,” Boswell said.

She also found it reassuring when learning about best practices at the course that the HEDC already conducts. One example is forging and maintaining partnerships throughout a community with organizations that touch economic development, like workforce, housing, utilities, and government.

Mayors from across Indiana speak during a panel at the 2024 Indiana Economic Development Course. Photo courtesy of the Indiana Communities Institute.

“I’m appreciative that I got to come into an already well-oiled machine,” Boswell said. “I didn’t have to build it, I just have to keep oiling it.”

Voorhis enjoyed receiving a more detailed understanding of financial aspects like tax abatements and tax increment financing, subjects she already had some knowledge of from previously working in the Hancock County Auditor’s Office. She also appreciated learning about different perspectives from a mayors panel, and taking part in group activities that fostered team building. Hearing from utility providers was informative as well, particularly on the subject of responding to requests for information regarding potential development projects–one of Voorhis’s responsibilities at the HEDC.

“I think I will have a better understanding overall of how this machine works,” she said. “It’s cool to see how economic development touches every walk of life in a community.”

And when questions without easy answers arise, she also now has a new network of contacts to reach out to for assistance.