Plan Developed; Time For Action

Posted: Updated:
Jeff Rea serves as CEO and president of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. Jeff Rea serves as CEO and president of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce.

More than two hundred community leaders from all corners of the region gathered last week in Mishawaka for the unveiling of the first ever regional economic development plan. The plan launch marked the culmination of more than a year of work by hundreds of volunteers seeking to develop a roadmap for regional development over the next seven years.

The plan comes on the heels of the cooperative effort that resulted in St. Joseph, Elkhart, and Marshall Counties receiving a $42 million state grant from the Indiana Regional Cities program. That infusion of state dollars, combined with significant local pubic and private sector dollars will result in more than $700 million of investment in the region. Many of those projects are now underway.

The regional cities award was a little bit of a surprise. When it launched leaders in the region and down State wondered if our region would be able to come together with a collaborative effort that could compete against other Indiana regions. What resulted was a plan that caught the attention of the State and further solidified developing relationships across this region.

Some wondered if once the money was doled out if that regional collaborative spirit would continue or whether communities would go back to doing things the way they always had been done. Leaders wisely decided instead to build upon that collaborative effort that produced a winning regional cities application and next build a regional plan to help guide future efforts.

A steering committee first took a deep dive into the data, forming a better understanding of the assets of our region and how we stacked up against our peers. An overarching goal of raising per capita personal income was developed. From there, five specific focus areas were studied, and a plan was developed with those focus areas in mind.

Those focus areas are Educating a world-class WORKFORCE; Recruiting and retaining great TALENT; Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES; Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities; Helping ENTREPRENEURS.

Specific measurable goals were developed under each of those focus areas. Those goals address things like reducing income disparity, stopping out migration, improving education attainment levels, growing jobs in higher pay traded cluster industries, and establishing high tech start-ups. Specific actions have been prescribed to help achieve those goals.

Though the regional cities plan originally incorporated only the three Indiana counties, the new regional plan incorporates a broader geography that includes Southwest Lower Michigan and Northern Indiana.

A small group of leaders have been drafted to help guide progress towards those goals. An overall organizational framework has also been put in place to help guide sustainable progress. That group includes broad community representation like elected officials, private sector representatives, chambers of commerce, economic development officials, convention and visitor bureaus, and others.

Now the real work begins. Its critical that leaders across the region don’t just place this plan on a shelf but instead incorporate elements of the new plan into their own programs of work as they work closely with their regional partners on the implementation of this plan.

Places around the country that are thriving are thriving in many cases because of a shared vision by their regional leaders. Our region is experiencing some good progress but this plan, a shared vision for our region, if implemented right, will help our region compete with any in the country.

Jeff Rea is chief executive officer of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce.

  • Perspectives

    • Ahh…Yes! Turning a Hot Mess into a Cool Breeze

      "Problems cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them," is attributed to Einstein over 75 years ago. This still holds true, particularly in challenging communications. Many people address conflict at the level it was created by rehashing and building more evidence for their ‘side’ of an argument. Repeating a position tends to intensify the separation of people.



Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • The IU School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering will now be named for Fred Luddy for his $60M gift. (photo courtesy James Brosher/IU)

      $60M Gift to IU, Second Largest in School History

      An Indiana University alumnus who founded the information technology firm, ServiceNow, has given his alma mater $60 million to establish an artificial intelligence center. The university says the gift from cloud-computing pioneer Fred Luddy is the second largest in the history of the IU.

    • POET ethanol co. announced in Aug 2019 it was closing the plant in Cloverdale. (photo courtesy: POET)

      Cloverdale Ethanol Plant Closes

      South Dakota-based POET LLC, the nation’s largest biofuels producer, is moving forward with a plan to shut down its biorefining plant in Cloverdale, leaving 50 Hoosiers without jobs effective Friday. The company tells Inside INdiana Business that it is not making any changes to the plans announced two months ago. 

    • The multi-year road project stretched from Bloomington to Indianapolis.

      I-69 Road Project Update

      The Indiana Department of Transportation has scheduled three public meetings for next week to update the community on the I-69 Section 6 road project.    Section 6 is an approximately $1.5 billion new interstate project stretching from Martinsville to I-465 in Indianapolis.

    • Who Pays Debts After Death?

      If you have a mortgage on your house, what happens when you die?  What about a car lease or credit card debt?  Are your heirs required to pay off what you owe? What is the financial legacy that you will leave behind?  Your legacy could be the bequest of property or money, but it could also mean inheriting debt. It’s not uncommon for spouses or others to get bombarded with collection calls from creditors asking to pay the bills of a family member who has died.

    • Chrissy Vasquez and Adam Ramsey

      Indy Reads Adds Staff

      Indy Reads Books has hired Chrissy Vasquez (pictured) as chief development officer to oversee marketing, development and the store. Also, Adam Ramsey (pictured) has been named manager of engagement, specializing in story telling through video and social media. Vasquez previously served as executive director and vice president of operations for Back on My Feet.