A steady decline in population has forced five incorporated communities in Wabash County to form a team to improve economic development in the area. The team, called Imagine One 85, is made up of elected and appointed officials, organizations and civic leaders from La Fontaine, Lagro, North Manchester, Roann and Wabash.

The group says the “alarming” population decline threatens school funding, industry, competitive wages and the prosperity of the entire county. The first opportunity for Imagine One 85 is scheduled for the week of November 9 with planned in-person meetings in each of the incorporated communities. Virtual events and stakeholder sessions are also scheduled. Information from the workshops and meetings and input from residents will be compiled and used to form a Comprehensive Plan.

The group says the plan will deal with land use, housing, financial conditions, economic development, public health, transportation and other issues, and is expected to take more than a year to complete. 

 “We need the community to get involved in this process for it to be successful in the long-term. We get the opportunity to interact with a number of other regions through our work, and the places that are winning are working together and making plans. This isn’t just a land use plan or an economic plan, it’s a plan for the communities of Wabash County and the growth and prosperity of our county,” said Keith Gillenwater, President and Chief Executive Officer of Grow Wabash County.

The group is led by a 19-member steering committee and an outreach team of more than 100 community members to help the steering committee spread the word about the process. A consultant team led by Planning NEXT of Columbus, Ohio is spurring the process with the Community Foundation of Wabash County and Grow Wabash County. 

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