Let’s face it: no single person, county, or city in Indiana can bring prosperity to our region – it’s too big of a task. The decline of East Central Indiana (ECI) is a multi-faceted problem where each county faces individual challenges while still bringing strengths to the table. Some have incredible amenities. Others have strong areas of economic development. Affordable housing markets are sprinkled throughout, and you can find wonderful schools and activities to keep you busy. The one thing every single ECI county has in common is opportunity – and that’s why Forge Your Path exists.
We can promote this land of opportunity by encouraging people to view ECI as a region – not just a group of individual counties that offer only part of the solution. We can’t compete for companies to relocate here and talented people to come here – or stay here – and a build a life here without the support of our neighboring counties and communities. We’re stronger together and we all have a united message: East Central Indiana is open for business and you can build a meaningful life in this region.
What We Hope to Change
Things haven’t been easy for East Central Indiana. In fact, we covered some of those problems in our article, Who is East Central Indiana: Forge Your Path? In addition to economic pressures, we face some intangible issues that make it hard for us to come together as a region and put our best foot forward. Here’s what stands in our way now and what we hope to change:
- the stigma that our “better days” have passed
- ignorance about the opportunities ECI has to offer
- apathy from current residents and leaders (i.e., “Nothing ever happens here! Nothing changes.”)
- competitive nature between neighboring communities
- lack of cohesive vision for ECI
- limited resources to tell our story
We’re all in this together and it’s going to take collaboration to build a better ECI for everyone. Attracting economic opportunities, building pride in our communities, and developing entrepreneurs requires a defined identity. We have to tell the world who we are as a region! That’s where Forge Your Path comes into play.
What We Want to Achieve
We’ll know we’re successful when East Central Indiana is mentioned in the same breath as other desirable regions in the United States. That sounds like a pretty lofty goal, right? That’s why we’re breaking it down into smaller ways to measure success. Our plan is to move the needle forward in ways that impact our current residents, the local economies, and regional tourism.
We want to:
- build pride and empowerment among ECI residents
- improve talent attraction
- empower people to foster change in their community
- compete regionally, nationally, and internationally
- attract dynamic corporations that provide high-paying jobs
- increase population
- diversify our population
- become a destination for residents and tourism
- improve our region’s amenities and overall quality of life
- be considered a player in the Midwest
We won’t see success overnight, but we know where we are now and where we want ECI to be in the future. It’s important that we encourage people who left the region to get back to their roots and help us grow – and that they can have the life they dreamed of here in ECI. We want current residents to know that they can make a difference here right now and that there’s plenty to do in our region. For visitors just passing through or planning a trip, we want them to know that there’s something for everyone in ECI and all are welcome here.
How We’ll Do It
The first step to uniting our region has been accomplished: we started talking about it. We built a coalition of local economic development organizations, tourism leaders, community organizations, and representatives of local employers. We found that each county had a goal to attract talent and establish the region as a destination and a place where people want to live, work, and play – and that we wanted to build pride and empowerment among current residents, attract new talent, and diversify our population.
Next, we had to build our brand. The coalition met regularly to develop a brand that represented everyone – not just tourism or economic development, but all counties and all the people that live in ECI. As we were sketching out concepts, the group kept coming back to the idea that you can build the life you want here. It might take a little work, but all the resources are here to forge your own path. From that, the Forge Your Path brand was created.
To continue promoting our region, we’ll work on building awareness in areas where folks might be compelled to look for opportunities elsewhere, as well as building awareness within ECI. We want to make sure everyone knows about the resources available to you in this region – career help, assistance opening a business or relocating your business to ECI, fun things to do and explore, and places to call home. Wondering if you’ll fit in? Request a match with one of our Ambassadors. We’ll help you find someone with similar interests who can tell you about their ECI experience.
Who helped us?
The launch of the Forge Your Path brand and website would not be possible without the support of each county in East Central Indiana and sponsors like Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana Michigan Power, Duke Energy, First Financial Foundation, Richmond Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau, New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, Blackford County Economic Development Corporation, Jay County Development Corporation, and the East Central Indiana Development Council.
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