The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Indiana cities and towns hard with job losses and a massive drop in revenues, forcing some communities to delay or cancel projects. But in Dubois County, the city of Huntingburg last week celebrated tens of millions of dollars in projects and is preparing for what Mayor Denny Spinner says could be a post-pandemic bounce. “I hope that we as rural communities in Indiana are prepared for that post-COVID experience that when people make those choices about where they live and work, that rural Indiana is something that’s very, very attractive to be a part of.”

Spinner discussed his city’s progress and the pandemic’s impact in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

The mayor says the budgeting process for the city has been the most challenging during his tenure because of the uncertainty surrounding the amount of revenues that will be available over the next couple of years.

“What we have experienced is that we’ve got to find ways to continue to provide the services that cities normally provide to their constituents, to their taxpayers and find creative ways to do that and not shy away from continuing to invest in those important things,” said Spinner. “Infrastructure projects, quality of life projects are things that need to be part of our plan and we need to continue…to think about ways to do that in this post-COVID environment.”

The city last week cut the ribbon on the 4th Street Heritage Trail, the final Stellar Communities project made possible by the city receiving the designation from the state in 2014. 

Spinner says the majority of the city’s Stellar investment went to infrastructure in downtown Huntingburg.

“Huntingburg had a beautiful downtown. We went from having a strong downtown to, ‘How do we reinvest in that?’ The 4th Street Heritage Trail is a project that was funded partially by INDOT along with local private funds and what that did is transform our downtown into what we think we should be in the future. It took care of all the infrastructure issues that were part of an aging downtown, but also made some very strong quality of life statements.”

Spinner says the ideas of more people working from home and more people moving back into more rural areas before they started happening because of the pandemic. He says other rural communities, such as the nearby city Jasper have been making similar investments.