Despite its long history of collaboration, the 11-county Northeast Indiana region faces significant challenges. These include limited population growth outside of Allen County (Fort Wayne), postsecondary education and credential attainment that lags state and national benchmarks, and per capita personal income levels that have fallen substantially below the US and the region’s past performance. Although extensive planning work has recently been completed for the region and for individual counties and communities, Northeast Indiana has not had a fully resourced strategic and tactical plan designed to address these barriers to economic growth.
In 2021, the Indiana Legislature created the Northeast Indiana Strategic Development Commission (NEISDC) with a mandate to 1) increase per capita income levels relative to the US average; 2) drive population growth in the region; and 3) enhance postsecondary education and credential attainment among residents. Composed of nine appointed voting members and two non-voting members who together represent the interests of the region’s 11 counties, the NEISDC was charged with creating a five-year strategic plan that would maximize its impact on the Northeast Indiana economy. TIP Strategies was engaged to prepare the initial Northeast Indiana Five-Year Plan. In addition to providing specific recommendations, the planning process examined the economic context of the region, solicited input from the leadership of each county, and established both realistic and ambitious targets for the three mandates. Primary responsibility for implementing the plan will fall to existing regional organizations, including the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, the Local Economic Development Organization (LEDO) Council, and the Mayors and Commissioners Caucus. The NEISDC will not duplicate or replace the efforts of these organizations but rather act as the conduit for state funding to be deployed in the region annually, which will then serve as leverage for pursuing additional funding streams. The NEISDC will also serve as a strong advocate and oversight body for the recommendations in the 2023–2028 strategic plan and will update the plan every five years.