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Area leaders vow to fight wage slide

June 29th, 2012

News Coverage:

Published: June 29, 2012 3:00 a.m.

Area leaders vow to fight wage slide

Group’s initial aim is to bolster degrees, credentials

Benjamin Lanka | The Journal Gazette

FORT WAYNE – Northeast Indiana’s local executives hope by working together they can help solve one of the region’s largest problems: wage decline.

Officials from across the region joined Thursday to pledge support to a new caucus uniting them to one voice to pursue change. The Mayors’ and Commissioners Caucus of Northeast Indiana unites executives from a 10-county region.

Its first action was to endorse “The Big Goal” which is to increase the number of residents in the area with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. That number currently sits just below 25 percent.

“This is the most urgent challenge we are facing as community leaders to assure businesses can grow and create 21st-century jobs,” Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown said.

The creation of the group came after 36 community leaders traveled to Denver last year to learn about its collaborative efforts. Brown, New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald and Angola Mayor Dick Hickman led the effort to form the caucus after that trip. It has been meeting monthly for the past six months.

Thursday’s ceremony included officials signing a founding document directing them to work together toward common goals. While the document acknowledged consensus likely couldn’t be found on every issue, it was important to find issues of agreement and work to advance them.

“By not working together, we lose ground in our economic development efforts,” Hickman said.

The leaders also agreed to a code of ethics that in part calls on the leaders to promise to sell the region first, above even selling their individual communities.

It also includes language discouraging leaders from trying to attract businesses to move within the region.

One of the largest tasks of the caucus will be to direct regional legislators to work on causes beneficial to the area. Brown said those issues have not yet been determined, but are likely to include money for transportation, infrastructure and public safety.

blanka@jg.net