VISION 2020: NORTHEAST INDIANA LEADERS HAVE SHARP EYES TOWARD THE FUTURE OF OUR REGION
Statistics show Northeast Indiana’s per capita income has declined from 96 percent of the national average in the mid-1990s to just below 80 percent in 2007, the last reporting period available. A group of Allen County community leaders are determined to join others across the 10-county region to do something about it.
Such is the spirit of Vision 2020, a project designed to bring leaders of Northeast Indiana together in a unified economic development approach. Mark Becker, executive director of the Northeast Indiana Fund who is helping spearhead the effort, said work continues behind the scenes more than two months after a crowd of interested citizens packed the Grand Wayne Center.
To date, area leaders have conducted 50 meetings and nearly 2,000 in-depth conversations about the region’s future.
While there have been spirited debates about what goals to pursue, there seems to be no disagreement on the need to work together. In an era when resources are stretched thinly, participants recognize they can accomplish far more by pooling resources than they can going it alone. A “Northeast Indiana” effort will have more impact than one staged by Fort Wayne alone.
But what should those efforts be?
Regional outreach meetings have emphasized five key points – or “pillars” – that officials believe are crucial to our area’s economic success in the future:
•attracting and keeping talent in the workforce;
•creating and maintaining a competitive business climate;
•having an efficient infrastructure;
•focusing on a good quality of life; and
Allen County leaders agreed with those from other area counties, saying attracting anad maintaining 21st century talent in the local workforce is the number one goal Northeast Indiana should focus on in the future. If that can be achieved, three positive ripple effects could happen to Northeast Indiana:
•A good economic development climate may be fostered;
•As education efforts feed this talent, crime rates may go down; and
•As economic development improves, so will the quality of life.
Participants believe attracting and maintaining 21st century talent is a goal within reach, because partnerships between education and area employers in Allen County are strong and growing stronger. Other assets the region has include internship programs, community foundations, the Midwestern work ethic, religious values and the proximity of area lakes and recreation. The city of Fort Wayne is ready to assist in this 10-county effort and is regarded as a strength by the group for offering “big city greatness in a front porch community.”
So, in this region where the entrepreneurial spirit contributed to such notable inventions as the television, washing machine, air conditioner and the gas pump, a difficult economy is being met with can-do attitudes. Watch for more information and how YOU can participate in the weeks and months ahead.
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne
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