AUBURN — The Community Foundation of DeKalb County will use the findings of a community assessment as it plans for the future.
The assessment was conducted by the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Thursday the institute released a report on the assessment that is intended to be “a look back and a look forward” for DeKalb County.
It “looks back” with quantitative data and “looks forward” using a qualitative assessment by community leaders with recommendations gleaned from the numbers and feedback.
Foundation Executive Director Tanya Young said the foundation will use the assessment in planning as it moves forward. In the next few weeks, the foundation will be meeting with nationally known consultant Tony Macklin, who will lead countywide efforts in planning for a GIFT VII grant, Young said.
The community foundation has received a GIFT VII grant from the Lilly Endowment to help strengthen the towns, cities and county it serves.
Young said the assessment will "help identify and get us in the right direction."
Many of the report’s numbers provide data over a 10-year period that captured the Great Recession plus the subsequent economic recovery, according to the report’s executive summary.
The report noted manufacturing’s dominance in DeKalb County’s economy. The county’s population is growing, but at a rate that is not keeping pace with Indiana, the assessment found
There is increasing educational attainment for adults with college degrees, but that also is lagging behind the state, according to the report.
The assessment found that DeKalb County households still overwhelmingly prefer home ownership, but the share of renters is increasing. A growing share of households are below the federal poverty Level, especially for certain household types, despite the strong job market, the report said.
DeKalb County has solid median household incomes, but housing costs are below the Indiana average.
There is small but growing racial and ethnic diversity, although the county remains overwhelming white and nonHispanic, the report noted.
Qualitative data highlights of the assessment include:
• interest in creating a unified community vision to connect DeKalb County’s cities and towns;
• capitalizing on the proximity to Fort Wayne, Allen County, Interstate 69 and the Indiana Toll Road;
• worries about the reliance on manufacturing and its associated jobs;
• concerns about brain drain and challenges in attracting higher-skilled jobs and workers;
• assessing the situation for low-income DeKalb County residents; and
• favorable quality-of-life features including family-friendly communities, traditional values and a low cost of living .
Highlights of the Community Research Institute’s recommendations include:
• building on the good that already exists;
• defining the Community Foundation of DeKalb County’s role as a community convener;
• identifying peer counties to evaluate programs and best practices relevant to DeKalb County; and
• adopting a welcoming, inclusive approach for newcomers and outsiders.