Together, We Get to the Next Level

Together, We Get to the Next Level

By Elaine Bedel, President of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation

During Governor Holcomb’s tenure, Hoosiers have heard a lot about taking Indiana to the next level: Next Level Roads, Next Level Jobs, and the Next Level Fund, just to name a few key initiatives. What ties it all together is a calculated effort to strengthen Indiana through proactive policymaking and leadership. As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has a tradition of working collaboratively with agency partners and local stakeholders alike. The results can be seen in innovative programs that empower communities to create and envision their own next level.

The Regional Cities Initiative represents a concerted effort to create solutions around familiar challenges: how to attract and retain talent, prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, and create a better quality of life for Hoosiers. With solutions in mind, the IEDC researched how peer cities successfully approached economic development and found that they all have bold, strategic visions to create places that welcomed talent and fostered community vitality. From this research, the Regional Cities Initiative was born.

The Regional Cities Initiative model empowers communities across Indiana to come together as regions to transform their communities into nationally-recognized destinations to live, work and play. Economic growth and job creation initiatives require robust planning and solid investment, not quick-fix solutions lacking in a long-term vision. To support this bold vision, the state of Indiana committed $126 million in match funding for quality of place projects across the state. Since 2016, Indiana has leveraged $116 million to secure a total of $1.2 billion in funding 56 brick-and-mortar projects that will enhance culture, connectivity and livability in Indiana.

In north central Indiana, the Studebaker Campus in South Bend closed down in 1963, creating a vacancy in the fabric of the downtown district for over five decades. Public and private sector leaders collaborated to develop a bold plan to revitalize the massive campus, transforming more than 1 million square feet of abandoned buildings into an innovation hub for high-tech and small businesses alike. What started as a relatively small investment to renovate the buildings’ facade attracted additional investment and culminated in the aptly named Renaissance District. With unused dark fiber-optic cables abundant in South Bend, the area is primed for the high-paying, high-tech jobs of tomorrow that will fuel growth and prosperity.

To the east of South Bend, northeast Indiana envisioned a future that leveraged the natural beauty of its communities, including one of its most iconic amenities – the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne. Four floors of the key downtown arts and entertainment venue were revitalized after nearly 40 years to include a two-story ballroom and rooftop patio, classrooms, breakout and rehearsal spaces, and new concessions areas. With the support of the Regional Cities Initiative, the Embassy Theatre will continue to attract new visitors to northeast Indiana for generations to come.

Further south in Evansville, leaders in the southwest region saw great value in the newly-established Indiana University Medical School and its accompanying scientific talent. The University of Southern Indiana, University of Evansville and Indiana University have embraced a theme of academic collaboration, allowing students to learn and conduct research in state-of-the-art facilities. Starting this August, Evansville will have a vibrant community of medical professionals and an increased availability of quality medical care in southwest Indiana.

Indiana’s quality of place initiatives are driven not by the state but through collaboration with communities, encouraging them to come together across county lines and across industries to build a cohesive long-term vision for the future. Diverse input and direction are evident in these plans, with each region leveraging its assets and celebrating its success. With seven Regional Cities Initiative projects already complete and many more underway, it is clear that taking Indiana to the next level means more than jobs and high-tech facilities – it is the promise of a quality environment in which to raise a family and follow your dreams.

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Category Features, Last Word