Shelbyville, Indiana – Pride in progress

March 8, 2019

Shelbyville, Indiana

Pride in progress


Business View Magazine interviews Mayor Tom DeBaun of Shelbyville, Indiana, as part of our focus on economic development of American cities.

Shelbyville, the county seat of Shelby County, is located 26 miles southeast of Indianapolis on the forks of Little Blue and Big Blue Rivers near the center of the county. Shelbyville was platted in 1822 and named in honor of Isaac Shelby, the first and fifth Governor of Kentucky, and a soldier in Lord Dunmore’s War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. The town incorporated on January 21, 1850.

Today, Shelby County has a population of approximately 46,000, with about 20,000 living in the City of Shelby. “We’re primarily an agricultural community in the county and industrial in the city,” says Mayor Tom DeBaun. “We have a lot of foreign direct investment; we have 14 Japanese companies, which puts us third, per capita, in the State of Indiana. We also have German, Dutch, French, Swedish, and Mexican industries here, as well, and we’ll be adding a couple of other nationalities, this year, yet to be announced. So, foreign direct investment makes up the majority of our work opportunities and our industrial investment. The majority of our jobs are automotive related, however, we are starting to see diversity now in consumer electronics and medical devices.”

Shelbyville, Indiana Conference Center.

Conference Center

Because of its growing industrial base, DeBaun says that the city’s focus, lately, has been on building, attracting, and maintaining a talented workforce, as well as creating the amenities that that workforce desires in order to keep them in Shelby County. “We’ve created programming in the last five years that goes all the way from zero to end of life,” he reports. “We have an early learning coalition that deals from zero to five; we have a program called Advantage Shelby County, which will allow all of our high school graduates to go to Ivy Tech, which is our state college, for free.”

Advantage Shelby County, a partnership between the City of Shelbyville, Shelby County, and Ivy Tech Community College, is a two-year college scholarship program specifically aimed at raising educational attainment and workforce readiness in Shelby County. It provides gap scholarship funding to Shelby County students to pay tuition costs not covered by state, federal, or institutional aid. In exchange for local support, students agree to perform 10 hours of community service per semester, or fulfill a program work requirement with a Shelby County company. In addition, qualified students are assigned a local mentor to guide them on their educational path.  “We’re the last dollar in after they go for their financial aid package,” says DeBaun. “And then they can qualify for up to 16 different cohorts that range from automation and robotics, to culinary arts, and lot of things in between – all transferable to a state, four-year university.”

“We created a charter school for adults who don’t have a high school diploma,” DeBaun continues. “It’s called the Excel Center (operated by Goodwill Education Initiatives, Inc., a not-for-profit organization formed by Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana) because we have about 5,000 people, county-wide, who don’t have a high school diploma. So, they can go through the Excel Center, which is recognized by the State of Indiana, receive a high school diploma, and then they can apply for Advantage Shelby County and go on for post-secondary educational opportunities.

“We also have an educational program for those students who aspire to be in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculums with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which has been the number one engineering university in the nation for 14 or 15 years. Through that program, we bring in students into our local industry; we pay their salary for the summer; they have real-life experience; and they bring current technology into our local industry. And then, the local industry, typically, hires these folks, every year.

Shelbyville, Indiana water park.

“We do a tele-mentoring program through Rose for our 8th grade students so that they can be introduced to STEM with students on campus. We also work very closely with our vocational school and we provide funding for them for automation, robotics technology, welding, programmable logic controllers, and things of that nature, so that we can get kids moving into the manufacturing realm, as well.

“And then Rose has a program called Rose-Hulman Ventures, which is a for-profit, prototype process in improvement and development, and we offer the opportunity to do that on our dime. For example, Knauf Insulation, which is one of our larger employers, when they went from a formaldehyde-based binder to a glucose-based binder, Rose Ventures helped them develop that technology and now, when they are making fiberglass, on some days, it smells like cotton candy instead of formaldehyde in Shelbyville.”

According to DeBaun, helping to make Shelbyville sustainable is part of the city’s agenda – creating a 21st century environment for its 21st century workforce. “We just partnered with a company called POET Biofuels,” he recounts. “The city and the county came together to provide incentives to get them here to construct an ethanol plant in our community. They will be buying 500 million bushels of corn a year, once they start this fall, and that would impact, hopefully, every farmer in the community. We have a belief that bio-technology in fuels is very important and it gives a direct benefit to the local farming community.” In fact, Shelbyville will be the 28th biofuel plant in POET’s network and its fifth in Indiana. The company’s nearly $160 million capital investment will add 45 full-time jobs; make $110 million in annual corn purchases within a 30-mile radius of the city; and produce 80 million gallons of clean biofuel per year.

“We’re going through the RFP process to look at some solar grids on city property to try and create more sustainable energy,” DeBaun adds. “We have put a microgrid, already, at our water resources recovery facility and we power all of our external lights out there off of the microgrid, and we converted them all to LED. We’re going through the LED conversion process in all of our facilities, citywide, including street lights. And our County Economic Development group is working with a company called Ranger Power. They’re looking at about a 1,200-acre solar farm in the community; it should generate 200 Megawatts. They will be selling power on the grid because we’re starting to see more and more manufacturers wanting that renewable energy source availability.”

DeBaun notes that the city works very closely with the county to share the costs on many of these projects. The good news is that Shelbyville has a revenue agreement with the Indiana Grand Racing & Casino operation located there, a thoroughbred horse track and a casino, and it uses those ‘racino’ dollars for incentives: “We’re using them for infrastructure incentives; we’ve used them to pay for roads, sanitary sewers, storm sewers, upgrades to lift stations, substation improvements for electricity, and gas lines. We’ve used them to buy down the cost of land when we’ve needed to.”

Regarding amenities for city residents, DeBaun says that it has built eight miles of trails over the last two years, upgraded many sidewalks and parks, and, several years ago, created a coalition called Livable Communities.  “We found that the needs of the elderly are the same as the needs of families with young children as far as mobility goes,” he states. “Everybody who has a stroller, a walker – we want those people to be able to get from Point A to Point B efficiently, safely, and comfortably. So we’ve created a program where we identify target neighborhoods based on the input from the Livable Communities Coalition and we go in and do wholesale changes of sidewalks and curb ramps, to make sure that we’re creating connectivity. And then, we instituted a bike/pedestrian master plan for the same reason. So, in our budgeting process, we’ve got a five-year, capital improvement plan that says we’ll handle this neighborhood at this time, the next neighborhood, next year, etc., etc. We’re doing the same for the downtown. In 2019, we’ll be in the design phase of a wholesale revitalization of our downtown area. We’ll be reconstructing everything – paving the sidewalks and adding green space to make it more pedestrian-friendly.”

Shelbyville, Indiana park in the background with sunflowers in the foreground.

Shelbyville is also intent on listening to the voices of its younger residents. “I created a group called Emerging Leaders in the community,” says DeBaun. “It’s mostly all 20 and 30-something leaders that are from here, or work here, because we want to understand how to attract the younger talent and from that, we’re creating new programming and impacting policy development. We just started in September, but we’re already looking at programming based upon their recommendations: parks programming, government policy, and things of that nature. These are people in leadership positions early in their careers. We want them to feel like they have positions of representation and ownership in the community.”

Shelbyville is also cognizant of the need for more housing options for both its current and future workers. “We had a company called Burns and Co. that did a housing study for us; they showed that we had a gap of about a thousand apartment units countywide,” DeBaun relates. “We know we can fill a lot of that gap in our downtown; we have a lot of space downtown with upper floors available for housing. We’re trying to attract that young talent and people who may not want to own a large home, so we’re working with housing developers who would be interested in looking at the upper floors of those buildings. So, we’re talking to tract builders for homes, and custom builders for apartments for downtown, as well.”

“For us, it’s about making change in the community for a quality experience,” DeBaun says, in conclusion. “We’re trying to look at these things, holistically. We know we can’t just react, we have to be proactive and forward thinking and that’s why we’re creating these educational opportunities across the spectrum; and that’s why we’re creating amenities that would last a lifetime. We’re really trying to look at our population from cradle to grave.”


WHO: Shelbyville, Indiana

WHAT: A city of 20,000

WHERE: On the forks of Little Blue and Big Blue Rivers



MHP / Major Health Partners logo.

Major Health Partners –

Since 1924, Major Health Partners (MHP) has been providing high-quality care to the people of Shelbyville and its surrounding areas. Over the years, MHP has grown to offer a wide spectrum of services, leading the region in many areas of healthcare delivery. In January 2017, Major Hospital relocated to the MHP Medical Center, a new, state‐of‐the‐art facility that offers one convenient location with multiple healthcare services under one roof. The new facility, which is home to 57 physicians,72 healthcare providers, and over 1,000 employees, houses MHP’s primary care offices, labs, imaging, oncology, cardiovascular, nephrology, pulmonology, other specialties, and inpatient services. MHP also offers complete orthopedic care at the MHP Renovo Orthopedic Center. In 2018 MHP was named one of the Top 100 Rural & Community Hospitals, and given a Performance Leadership Award. And it continues to grow and expand. Recently, MHP added inpatient dialysis and will offer outpatient dialysis with the summer 2019 opening of a new 21,000-sq.-ft.building on its campus. As an organization in the ever-changing world of healthcare, one thing that hasn’t changed is MHP’s focus and commitment to providing excellent healthcare to its friends, neighbors, and community through its unique combination of advanced technology, modern facilities, and individualized service.

Unified Group Services logo.

Unified Group Services, Inc. –

HIS logo.

Hotel Investment Services, Inc. –

March 2019 issue cover of Business View Magazine.

March 2019 Issue

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Shelbyville Indiana brochure cover. Click to view.