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Policy Points

Policy Points is a bi-weekly publication of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, providing insight and analysis of critical local, state and federal issues.

Friday, December 18, 2015

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Readers of Policy Points have been following the saga of the Regional Cities initiative. You were with us when Governor Pence and the Indiana Economic Development Corporations announced the program after discovering the need to promote regional cooperation and quality of life.

You were with us as we reported on legislative activity and our lobbying efforts to help Regional Cities survive the General Assembly.

You read about the creation of a Regional Development Authority, our application process and the reaction to our application by the evaluation committee.

On Tuesday of this week, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Governor Pence announced that our region, North Central Indiana, has won a $42 million Regional Cities grant. Congratulations Elkhart County, St. Joseph County and Marshall County. We did it. We worked together as a region and have been recognized, and rewarded, by the state of Indiana.

This article talks about the value of the concept of regional cities and the focus of attracting people.

A couple caveats

With all the updates we have been sharing about Regional Cities, you are aware that the legislation provided for 2 winners, yet the IEDC committee chose 3. How does that work? It will require the legislature to appropriate additional money. The good news is that the funding for Regional Cities comes from the tax amnesty program. They have collected far more than anticipated, so the money is there.

The other good news is area legislators think the General Assembly will appropriate the money. Here is a story.

Another issue is that we are not quite clear on the details of shaking the grant loose. What money has to be in which pot before workers start construction? While our RDA figures out some of those details, we can report that the natatorium in Elkhart and the high-tech hub in South Bend are ready, as close as we can tell.

Fortunately, the IEDC is planning to stay engaged with the process, not just for our region, but for the entire state. Here is a story.

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What’s in a name?

Officially, our Regional Cities application refers to us as North Central Indiana. That gives people a rough idea where we are, even though it does not appear on a map.

The driving force and coordination of our efforts was carried out by the Michiana Partnership. The people who live here are very familiar with the term, “Michiana.” Outsiders should be able to figure out that it must be where Michigan and Indiana touch, even though “Michiana” doesn’t appear at a spot on a map.

As you read more stories about our region you may see more people reference the South Bend – Elkhart Region. There are some advantages to this label. You can find South Bend and Elkhart on a map. When Notre Dame plays on TV, with millions of people watching, the announcers refer to South Bend.

We are still a pretty cool place, regardless of what we are called.

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Thriving or not

A recent report from the IU Public Policy Institute evaluated Thriving Communities. They found that the urban centers are doing well, while the rural areas are challenged. Elkhart County is considered an urban center, or, perhaps, South Bend is considered the urban center and we are considered part of that. Here is the report.

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From thriving to vibrant

As readers of Policy Points know, Elkhart County’s next chance to weigh-in on quality-of-place priorities is the Vibrant Communities initiative. Your Chamber is deeply involved, of course.
Please participate in the Kickoff to the Vibrant Communities initiative January 26, 4 to 6 p.m. in the Crystal Ballroom of the Lerner Theatre in downtown Elkhart. Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities” and “Love Where You Live,” will provide a keynote address and stay for a social hour following the presentation.
This event is just the beginning. The Vibrant Communities initiative is our opportunity to strengthen Elkhart County’s great places. We’ll develop an agenda of actions to ensure we have a great place to live, work and raise a family.
To learn more about the Kickoff event, the process, or to get involved, visit here

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Evolution of a concept

Before the Regional Cities Initiative, the Vibrant Communities initiative formed, but they quickly turned their efforts to helping complete the Regional Cities application. Because the concept of both programs is the same: improve quality of live to attract talent.

We are pleased Vibrant Communities is continuing their efforts and are cooperating fully.

Before Vibrant Communities and Regional Cities, Elkhart launched the SoMa plan to build the live, work, and play concept in downtown Elkhart. By making Elkhart more livable and workable, with more fun things to do, we would be able to attract talent.

Before SoMa, your Chamber identified the need to attract talent. We called for an effort to attract professionals to our community, and called it  500 Families.

And we need to give props to Pillars and our Young Professionals for organizing events, even before we released our 500 Families concept.

It is because of all these efforts that our community was able to rally around Regional Cities so quickly and effectively.

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Transportation breakfast

Our Transportation Council hosted another great event earlier this month. Representatives from the operators of the Indiana Toll Road explained plans for transportation upgrades. New pavement, new rest areas, and new smart transit plans are coming. All the changes will improve efficiency and safety. Imagine large traffic signs that update you when there is an accident up ahead and what is a safe speed. Imagine Toll Road staff being alerted when there is a long line at a toll booth so they can quickly correct the issue.

You can keep up on changes operations at the toll road web site.

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Last Policy Points of the year

Your Chamber will be closed Thursday, December 24. We will be back in business Monday January 4.

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

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Visit our sponsor: Majority Builders

Upcoming Chamber events

For more information about these and other events, visit our website.

Dec 22. Ribbon Cutting Celebration for Ruoff Home Mortgage, 3:30 pm, 901 Parkway Ave, Elkhart

Jan 20, OSHA Council Breakfast: Ladder Safety. 7:30 am, Matterhorn Conference Center

Jan 23, Third House Meeting, 10 am, Greater Elkhart Chamber

Jan 28, Meet the New Mayor - a luncheon hosted by the YP Council 11:30 am - 1 pm, Matterhorn Conference Center

Jan 29, Career Day, 8:30 - 11 am, North Side Middle School

Feb 9-10, OSHA 10 Hour Voluntary Compliance Training, 8 am - 5 pm, Matterhorn Conference Center (registration limited to 40 participants)

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