Crouch praises area’s endeavors
By Matthew LeBlanc | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne drives the economy in northeast Indiana, but the region's strength lies among the 11 counties that make up the area, said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and local business leaders.
Crouch spoke Monday at a meeting of the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, which advocates for business interests in the region. The membership meeting in Fort Wayne was the first for the group and will be held annually beginning next year, organizers said.
While the region's economic focus is on Allen County and Fort Wayne, businesses in those areas and 10 surrounding counties should continue to work together to maintain economic momentum and political leverage, Crouch said.
A former state auditor and representative for Vanderburgh and Warrick counties, Crouch lauded leaders of local businesses and lawmakers for efforts to discuss and address needs for the whole region.
Northeast Indiana includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.
“When I was a state representative, I would watch how effective the representatives of northeast Indiana would be in getting what they needed for their region,” Crouch said. “You have very strong leadership in northeast Indiana, and you should be proud of that.”
Her appearance at the meeting was one of three stops she was making Monday that included a talk in Marion and a tour of Vera Bradley in Fort Wayne.
Chamber members include business leaders, economic development organizations, health care providers, a utility – Heartland REMC in Wabash – and colleges and universities including IPFW, Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana Tech. An annual report from the group calls for expanding membership to agribusiness because “it is one of our largest industry sectors and imports a great deal of capital.”
David Findlay, president and CEO of Lake City Bank, chairs the chamber board. He said cooperation among business and political leaders in northeast Indiana will make the region a formidable force in Indianapolis.
“It's not just (about) what's good for Allen County,” he said. “We will make sure we will represent the entire region on this. The best way to have a strong voice at the statehouse is to have a unified voice.
“We're really well-positioned.”
Chamber President Bill Konyha echoed the comments.
“We are committed to growing our membership,” he said. “One of the things that will help us at the Statehouse will be growing our membership.”
Crouch spoke briefly at the meeting and left before it was over to travel to Indianapolis for another event. She said Indiana's economy is “strong and getting stronger” and highlighted efforts by Gov. Eric Holcomb and state lawmakers that she said have improved the state's roads.
She spoke generally about fighting “the drug epidemic” by increasing penalties for drug manufacturers and dealers and creating more drug treatment centers.
Crouch touted plans to provide pathways to jobs for veterans and people with disabilities.
“When we all work together, we can achieve great success,” she said.
The chamber reported $577,000 in total assets in 2017, up from $451,000 the year before, according to the report. It reported net income of about $111,000.