By: Terry Murphy—
TALENT ATTRACTION, RETENTION, DEVELOPMENT, AND QUALITY OF LIFE PLAY KEY ROLES IN ECI REGIONAL CITIES PLAN
Population stagnation and the loss of talent are critical issues that have faced East Central Indiana and the state of Indiana for decades. The Regional Cities Initiative is an opportunity for regions within the State of Indiana to collaborate, identify projects, and put together regional solutions to quality of life issues that directly relate to the attraction and retention of talent. These community-based plans are to provide a bold vision that will lead to transformational change within the Region and seek to grow the Region into a nationally-recognized destination of choice for talent and investment. To help incentivize local communities to undertake Regional Development Plans, the state of Indiana has set aside $84 million from the tax amnesty program to partner with communities in the funding and implementation of projects identified in the plans. “ADVANCE – A Vision for East Central Indiana,” is the name of the area’s Regional Development Plan (RDP) that will compete with six other Regions across the state for a slice of this funding.
The East Central Region’s RDP’s vision is centered on harnessing existing momentum and energy to reinvent the region’s economy by focusing on a new generation of entrepreneurs, institutions, and communities as well as recreational and cultural areas. Plans, which total more than $147.9 million in investment, include continued revitalization of Muncie’s downtown area and development along the White River, New Castle’s up-and-coming arts district that builds upon Robert Indiana’s legacy as well as Anderson’s Flagship / Purdue Innovation Center and more.
The RDP is an eight-year plan that will be reviewed and updated regularly with subcommittees formed to assure the goals, objectives, and projects are attained. The RDP stresses the importance of the attraction, retention, and development of talent and the role quality of life plays in attracting and retaining businesses and seeks to create destination communities within the East Central Region.
The RDP is guided in its development by a few key principles:
- Focus on achievable, but impactful, initiatives that can be accomplished over the next several years and create long range positive change;
- Be additive and complementary to the great work and activity already underway in the region; and
- Pursue actions that are sustainable locally regardless of IEDC funding – IEDC funding should be an accelerant, not the primary reason for pursuing an initiative.
The RDP sets forth to address the five major challenges in our region: demographic shifts, low real estate values, talent attraction, the need to gain more economic value from our industries, and low business start up rates. These challenges are significant, but not insurmountable. The RDP’s participants established a set of strategic priorities and created a series of initiatives to support these priority areas and directly address the challenges. As you will see from the RDP, solving many of our challenges requires initiatives that are linked and interdependent. And, implementing the plan will require building on the spirit of collaboration and regional discussions started by the process.
The projects brought forth in the RDP for consideration of funding by the IEDC Regional Cities Initiative represent the next step in the evolution and regeneration of a prosperous, healthy East Central Indiana. These projects are critical to maintaining the notable progress that has been made over the last 5-7 years.
Terry Murphy, CEcD is the Vice President, Economic Development for the Muncie-Delaware County, Indiana Economic Development Alliance