When Is Growth Not Growth?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Growth in assessed wealth and growth in population do not necessarily go hand in hand. That is what we have learned from the town’s census numbers and the school’s somewhat stable enrollment numbers compared with growing assessed wealth.

Our assessed value has increased over the past decade and the number of jobs available locally have increased during the same period.

But the number or people and students here remain fairly stagnant.

There are some social trends of which school and town officials and the public need to be aware when considering education and government services.

Economic growth doesn’t equate to more students and more residents.

There are two dynamics at play.

One, as a society, we are having smaller families. Unlike earlier generations, parents are choosing to have smaller families and having children later. Some couples are choosing to be childless.

Secondly, we commute. Pointing to the industrial growth of Crothersville, higher salaried jobs have not resulted in new residents moving to the community. We continue to see commuting in to work at factories in Crothersville.

Some readers may take offense that of the several hundred workers at Crothersville’s newest manufacturing plants, so many choose to commute rather than move to the area. But historically, we have grown up with a commuting mentality.

For decades many Crothersville area families, parents and grandparents regularly commuted to Seymour, Columbus, Austin or elsewhere for employment. Many still do.

Even when the old U.S. Shoe and later the Nine West plant was in Crothersville, 75% of their workforce came from away from Crothersville. Many were neighbors from Scott County communities.

Of the industrial executives and management at Crothersville’s newest factories, as best as I can observe, none live in the school district, town or township.

This is not a local phenomenon. Our neighbors in Seymour lament that many of their factory execs choose to live in Bartholomew County. And the in Columbus the powers that be wonder why many of their workers and executives commute in from Indianapolis and the southern portion of the donut counties of the state capital.

Even today, many of our educators and administrators at school, prefer commuting to living here.

So, we should not become surprised to learn that more factories and more jobs does not equate to more students in our schools and people in our community.

Over the last decade we have seen additional homes built in our community, but bearing out the accuracy of  societal trends, even more houses have not resulted in significant population increases for the town or the school.

It seems that if you do not live here, this is a great place to work. And if you don’t work here, this is a great place to live.

So why do we live where we live? I submit that for some, we live where we live because that’s where we want to live. It’s a preference. And even when gas was $4 a gallon, we stayed put, paid the higher cost to commute. Now that fuel may be flirting on both sides of $2 a gallon, commuting is a non-factor…even when the rivers get out of their banks and flood the roadway or there are highway closures on the interstate leaving long parades of visiting vehicles into the not-so-desirable looking downtown that is Crothersville.

Back when we were building on to the school, updating classrooms and adding an auxiliary gym, we were told that it would help increase enrollment. I disagreed at the time and offered, somewhat tongue in cheek, that if we wanted to increase enrollment and population, we needed to build the equivalent of Six Flags over Crothersville; an amusement park in the middle of the high school track. And the only way adults could use the fun park would be if they lived here; the only way youngsters could enjoy the thrills was to be enrolled in school here.

Fun and games, it seems, whether on an elementary or high school sports level up to a professional sports scene, is what gravitates residents in Indiana.