Wabash Heartland Region releases strategic plan for prosperity

August 30, 2016

WabashHeartlandRegionPlanLAFAYETTE, Ind. (August 30, 2016) After more than 18 months of research, planning and community engagement, stakeholders in the Greater Lafayette area released today a comprehensive strategic plan for economic and community prosperity throughout a ten-county region, referred to as the Wabash Heartland Region.

The plan identifies strategies that will augment the long-term growth and prosperity of the region by capitalizing on its regional strengths, including but not limited to, Purdue University, Ivy Tech Community College, industry clusters, and exemplary school systems. The strategic plan, funded by a planning grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., represents the first phase of a multi-year project overseen by the steering committee, which named itself the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN).

The strategic plan first reviewed extensive market data to determine what industry clusters existed within the region that can be positioned for future economic growth.

Ultimately eight industry clusters were identified and analyzed in further detail:

  • Life- and Agri-Sciences
    • Ag-biosciences
    • Food processing and manufacturing
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Value-Added Metals Processing
    • Automotive/heavy vehicle equipment
    • Metals production and related manufacturing
    • Precision metalworking
  • Key Support Clusters
    • Engineering, technical, and design services
    • Packaging products

The plan also proposes strategies that would promote these industry clusters, considers how to leverage existing assets throughout the region and how to establish key elements of a prosperous community.

The four related strategies are:

1. Catalyzing the growth of existing industrial clusters;
2. Advancing systemic workforce development initiatives;
3. Leveraging regional research strengths to diversify the economy; and
4. Fostering a high-value quality of place

Since the $575,000 grant was awarded in December 2014, extensive research has been conducted under the direction of the WHIN, which consists of 12 invested stakeholders and leaders from Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren, and White counties.

WHIN worked with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) Foundation, which served as the project coordinator and research consultants with the Battelle Memorial Institute Technology Partnership Practice (TPP). In the fourth quarter of 2015, TEConomy Partners, LLC was formed as an independent company, transitioning the complete staff and capabilities of TPP from Battelle Memorial Institute.

Together, they conducted an intentional process of examining the economic and workforce opportunities and challenges within the region through a series of community and stakeholder meetings. In addition, steering committee members travelled to three “benchmark regions” – Ames, Iowa; Greenville, S.C.; and Columbus, Ind. – to exchange best practice ideas with regional leaders in business, education, economic development, and workforce development.

The Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette, along with other community foundations representing the ten counties, oversaw listening sessions in each of the counties within the region to gather insights into its relative strengths and opportunities.

“The Wabash Heartland Innovation Network is very excited about the release of this plan,” Gary Henriott, chairman of Henriott Group and chairman of WHIN, said. “We believe that it contains a vision for the development of regional prosperity, and we hope that it will catalyze the implementation of a number of initiatives that empower business, industries, and communities to innovate and grow right in our own backyard. We’re looking forward to the next steps of this important work.”

The next phase of WHIN’s work will consist of prioritizing which initiatives and actions will be pursued and developing a comprehensive implementation plan and timeline.

“WHIN is eager to begin the process of engaging with stakeholders throughout the region to gain input and support on some of these proposed activities,” Dick Giromini, CEO and president of Wabash National, said. “Prioritizing which initiatives fulfill the largest needs and finding mechanisms to implement them will allow the region to significantly move the needle on economic growth.”

Lilly Endowment’s grant was awarded to the CICP Foundation, which supports the charitable and educational activities of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP). The grant is managed by Energy Systems Network (ESN), CICP’s initiative focused on energy technology.

Paul Mitchell, steering committee member and president and CEO of Energy Systems Network, an initiative of CICP, said, “I feel confident this region can put together the right combination of leadership, funding, and champions to implement some of these initiatives and push the region to compete on a global level.”

The Strategic Plan for Economic and Community Prosperity in the Wabash Heartland Region is available at www.cicpindiana.com/resources/wabashheartlandregionplan.

Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) was founded to serve as the steering committee for the strategic planning effort for a ten-county region (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren, and White counties) in the Greater Lafayette area. WHIN cultivates initiatives that empower globally-competitive businesses to plant and grow in the Wabash Heartland.

WHIN’s leadership consists of regional leaders and stakeholders invested in the ten-county Wabash Heartland Region:

  • David Bathe, chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Lafayette and Kokomo regions
  • JoAnn Brouillette, president, Demeter LP
  • Ron Dickerson, retired, vice president, Nucor Steel
  • Dick Giromini, president and CEO, Wabash National
  • Gary Henriott, chairman, Henriott Group
  • Gary Lehman, trustee, Purdue University
  • Stephanie Long, president and CEO, North Central Health Services
  • David Luhman, partner, Hoffman, Luhman, and Masson
  • Todd Miller, president and CEO, Myers Spring
  • Paul Mitchell, president and CEO, Energy Systems Network
  • Marianne Rose, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette
  • Steve Schultz, chief legal counsel, Purdue University

WATCH interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gary Henriott and Steve Schultz. 

About Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP)
The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) was formed in 1999 to bring together the chief executives of Central Indiana’s prominent corporations, foundations and universities in a strategic and collaborative effort dedicated to the region’s continued prosperity and growth. To advance this mission, CICP sponsors six key economic development initiatives, AgriNovus Indiana, BioCrossroads, Central Indiana Workforce Development Initiative, Conexus Indiana, Energy Systems Network and TechPoint, each of which addresses challenges and opportunities unique to its respective area: agriculture innovation, life sciences, workforce development, advanced manufacturing and logistics, energy technology and information technology. To learn more about CICP, visit www.cicpindiana.com.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.