Teams of innovators tried to tackle some of Starke County’s most pressing challenges, as part of the Indiana Bond Bank’s Flipping Finance Challenge. Graduate students, experts in particular fields, and others interested in improving communities gathered in Indianapolis last week for an “18-hour design sprint.” The goal was to try to come up with creative solutions to challenges facing Starke County, Jay County, and the City of Bloomington with the chance of winning prizes.
Starke County representatives’ favorite pitch suggested addressing the county’s lodging shortage through temporary installations of tiny homes, according to Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Larry Wickert. “They have companies now that will rent these tiny homes,” Wickert explains, “and you can get a group of them, bring them out. If it’s near a city or town, you could hook them up to the sewer. If not, you can rent restrooms.”
He explains the homes could be brought in for festivals and special events as a way to draw in more out-of-town visitors, eventually building demand for permanent hotels. “I don’t know if that would work, but we found it a rather interesting proposal, so we’re looking into that,” Wickert says. “We think that’d be a good one.”
He adds that Starke County’s second choice tried to tackle the county’s housing challenges by involving industrial and commercial businesses that are looking for workers.
Innovators also looked at ways to address the lack of grocery stores outside of Knox. “They had some good ideas on, perhaps, trying to start with farmers’ markets, maybe get young people involved to help with that, and try to grow that, maybe, into a co-op, and eventually, maybe, have somebody own a grocery store,” Wickert says. Other proposed solutions had to do with Starke County’s culture and arts.
Going forward, Wickert says the Constellation of Starke team will work on incorporating the ideas into its effort to get a Stellar Community designation from the state. But he says the group plans to establish committees that will work on addressing the challenges whether the county gets the Stellar designation or not.