Saving the "Beach" with Wind Power
Updated: May 28
The definition of economic development varies from one person to another; however, the ultimate goal never changes - make your community economically viable. The road to economic success for every community is different and for rural communities it can be most challenging so I would like to tell you a story about a worthwhile opportunity. As many know, renewable energy developments can be a game changer for rural communities – millions in new tax revenue to support schools, first responders, and infrastructure; lease payments to family farms that allow them to succeed for generations to come; and economic booms when hundreds of construction workers come to stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. But there’s an incredible economic bonus few people realize exists that can be a life changing investment for many communities: economic development funds. In addition to the direct investment and payments renewable energy projects make, they often provide special economic development funds to support future growth in the county. This is the story of how one wind farm is making a difference in White County. White County is different than most rural communities, because of an icon that has withstood the test of time for decades - Indiana Beach. Indiana Beach is a family amusement park located on the shores of Lake Shafer. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have traveled to Monticello over the summers to spend time walking the boardwalk or boating on the lake. The “Beach,” as it is called by the locals, brought millions of dollars into the community each summer, which helped sustain the local businesses throughout the long winters. Earlier this year, the owners of the Beach announced that they would be permanently closing. The community was in shock as they began to realize that things would never be the same in White County. This would be a devastating blow to White County’s economic vitality, especially at a time when the economy was being challenged by the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. White County officials did not stand idly by, they had an ace in the whole - the economic development funds from the wind farms. The county leaders voted to use some of those funds as an incentive to attract a new buyer for the Beach - and it worked. The new buyer announced that they will work hard to get the Beach reopened this summer and that the incentive offered from White County’s Economic Development Wind Farm Fund helped close the deal. Whether it’s saving a beloved amusement park that provides jobs, tourism, and memories or for small businesses and our suffering downtowns as they navigate a global economic downturn, having such a fund can be a community lifeline. If you have an opportunity to add a business partner to bring such value to your community, why wouldn’t you?