The board chair of the newly-launched Wabash Heartland Innovation Network says a nearly $40 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. offers a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for the region. The funds are designed to help the 10 counties parlay strengths in agriculture, manufacturing and technical training through Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College into what Gary Henriott says could be a globally-recognized hub for Internet of Things innovation. He believes the investment will boost the Wabash Heartland Region's identity and create prosperity through next-generation technology.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Henriott said the high-tech focus will have ripple effects for years to come. "If we can begin to be intentional about developing a vision of what that can be in our region -- of how we can apply those things that are happening throughout our world today -- and apply them in our region, make them more attainable for our business community and agriculture community," he said. "And then align our educational resources and talent resources around the delivery of that mixture of IoT that we would like to see enhanced in the future in our region, we think that's a pretty good combination to be able to not just step forward one step at a time, but actually take a leap forward in this area and become what we're hoping to be the epicenter of this IoT culture that's going to be developed."

The next steps for WHIN include hiring a chief executive officer, which Henriott says will happen in early 2018.