Anyone that drives through the Wabash Valley can’t miss all the blighted areas, especially as you drive further into our rural communities. One of the most reoccurring topics of discussion locally is how to improve blighted areas. It is true that state incentives exist for some of the more strap bound small communities but often it is cost prohibitive to tap into those funding streams. Administrative costs far outweigh the incentive from the state usually and so many communities throughout the state often have to leave “money on the table” at the end of the day.
Recently I have had the opportunity to collaborate and partner with several institutions and organizations to provide educational resources to both Terre Haute and surrounding areas. Collaboration is going to be a vital component to creating a sustainable and healthy environment in what is currently vacant, empty, and in many instances, shell-like communities. Even in Terre Haute there are business and residential sectors that are impeding development.
What roll is required from business resources and support systems, residents, higher-education institutions and businesses? The first thing is trying to preferably eliminate concept of operating in a silo. What does it mean to be operating in a silo? Unfortunately, every community has organizations that operate in a business silo and therefore don’t provide any or very minimal benefit to the community and the residents. To operate in a silo simply means that the said stakeholder doesn’t participate or support anything unless they will receive a direct benefit from it or a favor can be paid out along the way. Possibly consider a roundtable, ecosystem, or a task force to address goals and objectives for the region to reduce blight.
Collaboration is also important. I am on several committees, boards, and roundtables and we often discuss the importance of collaboration. Collaboration is going to be vital within each county, but also between counties, between states such as Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio working together and then also as a region. Sit back and reflect on how much impact, how many resources and how much power could be harnessed if we worked together. What would happen to each of our communities if we all rolled up our sleeves, put in some sweat equity and decided to help each other and not perceive each other as a threat?
A wonderful example is at the end of May. Transforming Your Local Economy was conducted in both Terre Haute and Clinton. The event was hosted and sponsored by the Vigo County Purdue Extension Office, the WC-ISBDC, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the City of Clinton. The event brought more than 50 people together to learn how to make our community a better enriched place to work, live and play. Part of the discussed focused on creation, attraction, retainment, engagement, and support of businesses.
As you continue to develop relationships and leverage your existing relationships I ask you to please consider how we might all collaborate more in order to increase our impact and decrease the blight that is scattered throughout our region. And as that question is answered then consider what are some initial and attainable goals that can be developed to measure progress.