Ball State Institute Looks to Drive Economic 'Transition'

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The institute will integrate expertise from all corners of the campus, including sociolology and peace studies. The institute will integrate expertise from all corners of the campus, including sociolology and peace studies.

Leaders of the new Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University have high expectations. The program will bring together the school's existing resources, including the Center for Business and Economic Research, to help cities and towns attract and retain talent through improving quality of life. Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Julie Halbig says Ball State's ultimate goal is to serve as a national model for college and university-driven economic development programs.

She says the institute will help communities of all sizes move away from an economy "based on physical capital, including plants and equipment."

Halbig says all indicators of economic success emphasize the importance of primacy of place for growth. The institute will partner with communities and tap BSU's research and outreach activity assets to boost "life experiences" for residents, businesses and visitors. “Our research has shown that communities that have seen growth in population, personal income, wages and jobs create, attract and retain talent. What these communities have in common are good schools, varied recreational activities, clean neighborhoods, and public and private amenities." She says those cities and towns that have not focused on these factors have struggled and "face an even more dismal future as households increasingly base their location decisions on the quality of life in a particular area."

The effort is part of the university's "Centennial Commitment," which seeks to make it "a model of the most student-centered and community-engaged of 21st century public research universities." Ball State has a long history of working with communities to bolster economic development by improving downtowns, roads, schools, parks and recreation areas. These efforts have involved cities including Kokomo, Columbus and Jeffersonville.

Halbig says the institute's key focus areas are:

  • Research: Create knowledge that addresses material changes in the factors influencing communities’ economic performance and how they impact the state’s economic prospects and disseminate that knowledge to public policy-makers, thought-leaders and influencers.
  • Policy: Influence community economic development policies at state, regional and local levels, emphasizing human capital development, retention and attraction and the role of placemaking in pursuit of higher levels of economic performance.
  • Practice: Engage with economic development stakeholders at community, regional, state and national levels to aid in formulating strategic and executing tactical approaches to improve economic prospects, based on sound policy development and research findings.

Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement Julie Halbig tells Inside INdiana Business the school and institute can play a role in transitioning Indiana toward an economy focused "more heavily on human capital."
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