FAIRMOUNT — Fairmount Main Street hosted a research team from Ball State University to present data gathered as part of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ (OCRA) IMPACT Main Street grant on Thursday night.
Researchers Brian Blackford, Beth Neu and J.P. Hall presented findings of their study on Fairmount and Grant County demographics, psychographics and spending and travel habits to a full audience and two OCRA representatives at Fairmount Town Hall.
Blackford shared information on how Grant County is changing, including projected population decline in the next few years. The same trend of decline is projected for much of Indiana, the team reported.
“Decline is happening … in over half of our counties,” Hall said. “We’re not having honest conversations, I think, locally, with what this means for the next generation. It’s almost a wake up call.”
Much of the information shared in the meeting was collected to give Fairmount Main Street and individual business owners insight on how to better serve Fairmount residents while bringing in new visitors and customers.
Hall shared overall demographics of Grant County, including the median age of 37 and the trend for more service-oriented jobs and fewer artistic and management positions.
Later, he shared the psychographics of Fairmount, which profile the majority of the population. This information included the median age of mid-40s, household structures with married couples but not many children, and spending habits, such as preferring in-person experiences or choosing local businesses and American-made goods.
Audience members expressed surprise to learn that Grant County has nearly 3,000 people commuting from neighboring counties to work here. One audience member pointed out the challenge that people often choose to work in Grant County but not live here.
Neu presented information showing that Fairmount has a surplus of gas stations and electronics, meaning people come to the town for those needs. Meanwhile, Fairmount residents usually go outside town to obtain sporting goods, hobby supplies, medical care, clothing and media like books and movies.
Blackford and Neu pointed out that online shopping outlets like Amazon.com can often be the competitor pulling money out of town on some of these items.
A large portion of the meeting consisted of guided audience activities and feedback. Researchers sought to learn what people currently love about Fairmount, which included the coffee shop The Branch, shopping opportunities, restaurants like Grains & Grill and available banks.
Audience members also discussed ways they wanted to see Fairmount improve.
One business owner who moved to the area from a bigger city about 10 years ago pushed for better public transportation such as a bus system, to both serve resident transportation needs and increase tourism. Another attendee shared a similar desire to see ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft made available locally for tourists and visitors’ transportation needs.
Researchers and attendees alike pointed out that downtown Fairmount has high appeal as a walkable area, with new sidewalks and well-connected amenities. One attendee countered that getting from neighborhoods to downtown is still a difficulty that needs to be addressed.
Audience members and Blackford agreed that Fairmount has charm, community pride and a positive attitude among residents. Blackford encouraged attendees to use that pride and positivity as a starting point to increase the draw and expand the opportunities of the town.
“In my humble opinion, I think a good way to do an initial gauge of a community’s pride and potential is their library … and coffee shop,” Blackford said. “And (Fairmount checks) both boxes.”
A formal paper report with all the data presented at the meeting will be made available by the research team soon.