Diane Schultz: Advocating for All of Boone County
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Trevor Ruszkowski
This month, we take a broad look at the continuing growth of Boone County. We discussed a few key factors with the Boone County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diane Schultz related to the growth that impacts the overall health of the county and why residents from all six Boone County communities should be aware of and engaged in the conversation of workforce development and business connectivity.
Schultz, a Zionsville native, grew up in Zionsville and moved to northwest Illinois, where she graduated from college, married and started a family.
“We [my husband and I] made the decision to move back to Zionsville in 2004 to be closer to family,” Schultz said. “We had three school-age children at that time, and our No. 1 priority was selecting an excellent school system within Boone County. Our county has three exceptional school districts, [and] strong school systems are an instrumental driver of growth and economic development and often the reason why families, such as mine, relocate or locate to Boone County.”
Having such a strong connection with her hometown and native county, Schultz was pleased to find that the county and its communities continued to offer a “small-town” atmosphere while offering modern amenities, such as parks and trail systems, community events throughout the year and the locally owned shopping and dining components, just as she recalled from her youth and has enjoyed with her family over the years.
Why Boone County Chamber of Commerce?
When asked why she decided to get involved with the local chambers, specifically accepting the role as executive director for the Boone County Chamber, Schultz replied, “Four years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the Boone County Leadership [BCL] program hosted by the Community Foundation of Boone County. That provided invaluable insight on issues that are of great importance throughout all six Boone County communities, including education, health and safety, economic development and our legal system.”
Schultz continued, “Throughout my participation in the BCL program and volunteer experiences in my community, I was amazed to learn that Boone County is home to so many wonderful businesses providing a variety of products, services and workforce opportunities, as well as nonprofit organizations making a positive impact on the betterment of all six Boone County communities.”
Schultz had been working with the Zionsville Chamber of Commerce previously and had accumulated the knowledge, experience and contacts key to her present position.
“While I greatly enjoyed my role at the [Zionsville] chamber and working with the town of Zionsville officials, businesses and organizations, in my new role with Boone County Chamber, I was excited for the opportunity to work with all six communities, including Zionsville,” Schultz expressed. “Boone County Chamber is a county-wide chamber that had previously been most visible in the city of Lebanon. Last year, the chamber revealed a new logo and tagline to reflect its mission, ‘Connecting communities-advancing businesses.’”
Boone County Workforce and Its Challenges
Schultz explained that the Boone County Chamber board of directors and staff are dedicated to providing opportunities and resources to build business connections, to provide resources to assist businesses and to attract and retain workforce.
“The chamber builds partnerships with and provides resources to Boone County businesses and its members, such as Hendrickson [Trailer Commercial Vehicle Systems] and Piece by Piece,” Schultz said. “Hendrickson is working on partnering with local school systems to create a talented workforce pipeline and to better prepare our future workforce. Piece by Piece is an example of a startup business that continues to realize growth and prosperity, and many other longstanding businesses continue to grow, prosper and partner with local municipalities to build strong communities throughout the county.”
Schultz said attracting workforce and creating strong communities to sustain a talented workforce is a top priority for the chamber and Boone County businesses of all sizes.
“Boone County Chamber strives to connect residents and businesses with chamber members who can assist them with their professional as well as personal needs,” she stated. “People truly do want to do business with people they know and trust, as well as genuinely want to support local businesses, but they need to know what businesses are available to meet their needs. They can’t do this with businesses they are not aware of.”
She added, “It is imperative for Boone County residents and other businesses to support local businesses throughout all Boone County communities, including professional and personal services such as health care providers, accountants, financial planners, insurance agents, as well as shopping and dining.”
In addition to its dedication to increasing the visibility of its members, businesses and organizations through its expansive menu of programs and events, the Boone County Chamber is also dedicated to assisting Boone County businesses address the issues of workforce development and the current labor shortage that afflicts some of its members.
Boone County has a population of approximately 65,000 and has attracted a multitude of new businesses in 2018–2019 that have added or will add additional jobs to the county.
“Attracting and retaining talented workforce is one of the greatest needs of our members, if not the greatest need,” Schultz emphasized. “We receive requests from our members weekly regarding their need to secure workforce and to fulfill their employment needs. This is a complex challenge, and there is no one single solution. The chamber is dedicated to collaborating with local employers, educators, elected officials, State of Indiana representatives, as well as Indianapolis region organizations, to provide resources to our members. Our members can then utilize and take action to address the workforce challenges of today, but most importantly, to be proactive in creating a talented workforce pipeline for Boone county’s future.”
A member of the Boone County board of directors and plant manager at Hendrickson, Brent Haines, spoke about his experience with the chamber and why he has decided to further engage with other members and local businesses on the issues of workforce development. Haines has been with Hendrickson for 23 years. After graduating high school, Haines joined the U.S. Marine Corps and started with Hendrickson immediately after. Haines worked his way up the ranks at Hendrickson while earning his bachelor’s degree in business through Indiana Wesleyan University using a tuition assistance program offered through his employer.
“Hendrickson has grown expeditiously since I started,” Haines said. “There were about 50 people, and now we’re up to about 460 employees. It’s a really great company to work for. It’s a 105-year-old company with 27 plants worldwide. I got involved with the chamber looking for ways to work with other businesses throughout the community on workforce issues and on ways that we can all be successful in Boone County.”
Haines shared that Schultz has connected Haines with several contacts he wishes to collaborate with on resolving the labor shortage, education, quality of life and affordable housing issues that are impacting companies in all industries here in Boone County.
“I’ve been getting out and talking with people, building those relationships and networking,” Haines said. “Diane has really helped us accomplish that immediate goal within this last year.”
Haines is currently working to develop a “Workforce Development Task Committee” with other businesses and organizations who are passionate about this subject and are dedicated to cultivating, attracting and retaining a talented workforce. He emphasized that committee members are needed, and he is available to discuss the focus and goals of such a committee with individuals who are interested in learning more.
“Businesses are coming in at an alarming rate, and we’re wondering where they’re going to get all the people,” Haines said. “We need to be developing the workforce and taking care of the existing workforce, so they stay in these areas and they don’t leave to go to another county that has more amenities and affordable living options. For the long-term health of Boone County, we need to partner together and help the businesses be successful so that they stay. This affects each and every single Boone County resident because a successful business community increases a positive economic impact in all six of the local communities, and the residents benefit from that.”
For more information about the Boone County Chamber of Commerce, visit the website at boonechamber.org.