On September 1, 2015, the Regional Cities of Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) submitted its Innovate Indiana economic development plan representing 22 cities and towns and more than half a million people in Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The submission represents the collaboration of more than 700 business, academic, public and private leaders in the region over the past year, and the final step in the state’s Regional Cities Initiative application process.
The five members of the RDA board who submitted the plan on behalf of the entire region are John Affleck-Graves, Chair and Executive Vice President of the University of Notre Dame, Regina Emberton, Vice Chair and President of Michiana Partnership, Dallas Bergl, Secretary-Treasurer and President of INOVA Federal Credit Union, John DeSalle, Vice President of Engineering & Manufacturing for Hoosier Tire Corp., and Pete McCown, President of the Elkhart County Community Foundation.
“This plan represents a call to action,” commented John Affleck-Graves, Chair of the RDA and Executive Vice President of the University of Notre Dame. “The call is for us to grow our population by attracting and retaining talent. And we’ll do that best by influencing the critical success factors of density, connectivity, amenities and productivity.”
The Regional Cities of Northern Indiana (RCNI) plan and project portfolio draws upon research and insights in the Regional Cities report from the IEDC and its best practice learning as well as a growing body of knowledge within the discipline of place-based economic development. Place-based economic development strategies align and improve both the physical environment in which people live and work and the unique resources that exist within communities that can support business development and innovation for greater economic development output.
“The plan calls for the region to be recognized for its world-class higher education and communication partnerships, superior access and connectivity, and high-performing communities,” commented Regina Emberton, Vice Chair of the RDA and President of Michiana Partnership. “It outlines and discusses in significant detail, how we’ll continue working together to build the kind of knowledge-driven, highly connected innovation district that both serves and provides access to a global economy. And it provides strong evidence of momentum in this direction.”
The Innovate Indiana plan represents a portfolio of 39 transformative economic development projects representing $703.4 million in capital investments that are critical in establishing a Regional Innovation District network. It also includes a forecast as to how those projects will impact the region and lays out a timeline that addresses the immediate opportunities reflected in the state of Indiana’s Regional Cities Initiative process and the long-term planning and development objectives for the Regional Cities of Northern Indiana.
“The 22 cities and towns in our region are thinking strategically about how best to link our unique assets and close gaps that will help attract and retain the talent that we need for a knowledge intensive economy,” added Pete McCown, RDA board member and President of the Elkhart County Community Foundation. “For example, we already have more than 40,000 men and women enrolled each year in colleges and universities throughout our region. Many of them come from all over the world; keeping that talent here as part of our growing and highly skilled resident population is key to the plan.”
The Innovate Indiana plan addresses density in the region with major real-estate development opportunities that will create a greater scale and density for people and businesses to interact and create value chains. Downtown South Bend’s Innovation District is poised to become the Midwest’s largest mixed use technology campus through the adaptive reuse of nearly 1.1 million square feet and 140 acres to support additional growth, all in close proximity to the urban core. The plan addresses connectivity through the opportunities to expand Metronet broadband capabilities, trails between communities and improved South Shore rail service to-and-from Chicago. It encourages new amenity development such as recreational and sporting assets, new trail systems, new transit systems and entertainment venues. And it addresses productivity as it is linked to education, innovation, technology and living standards.
“Today, we submitted a plan to the IEDC that all of us can be very proud of,” added Emberton. “This is a great region with incredible leaders. Thanks to so many dedicated men and women in these 22 cities and towns, this region is ideally suited to adopt and build upon the innovation district model.”
The Regional Cities Initiative is a public-private partnership proposed and led by Governor Mike Pence with support from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The goal of the Regional Cities Initiative is to make Indiana a magnet for talent by creating a national identity for Indiana cities. Regions are competing for up to $42 million in state matching funds by submitting proposals with a slate of game‐changing, quality of life projects (amenities and attractions that will attract and retain young talent).
To find out more about the Regional Cities Initiative, go to RegionalCitiesofNorthernIndiana.com