During the preparation of the Vision 2020 plan in 2010, leaders in the 11-county Northeast Indiana region highlighted a critical drop in per capita personal income over a 15-year period as several major employers downsized or ceased operations. Concerns about the region’s economic decline were amplified by stagnating population growth and lagging educational attainment levels. Influencing these metrics was the focus of subsequent planning efforts, including the preparation of Vision 2030 in 2017 and the Road to One Million Regional Development Plan in 2015. The regional development plan was created as part of the Regional Cities Initiative that resulted in $42 million awarded to the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) to fund transformative quality of place projects.
Northeast Indiana’s most recent planning effort was conducted in 2021 as part of the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), a statewide competitive grant process administered by the Indiana Economic Development Council (IEDC). Through the READI process, state officials sought to award more than $500 million in funding to accelerate the implementation of regional development plans as a way to catalyze economic and population growth. For Northeast Indiana, the process provided the opportunity to reinforce and reinvigorate more than 30 years of regional collaboration that had initially grown out of a multi-community effort to attract a General Motors assembly plant to Allen County in 1986 and was formalized by the creation of the organization ultimately known as the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (the Partnership). With assistance from TIP Strategies, the Partnership and the RDA brought community leaders together again to craft Growing with Vision, a regional development plan that updated the long-standing vision of transforming Northeast Indiana into a top global competitor through an intentional focus on talent. Armed with an understanding of current conditions and clear direction from each county, regional leaders identified three priority areas for the READI funds that would address crucial talent-focused challenges: growing the workforce, building vibrant downtowns, and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. These areas aligned closely with those laid out by the IEDC in its READI guidelines, while complementing and building on prior planning efforts. Submitted in September 2021, the Growing with Vision plan was awarded the maximum $50 million in state funding.