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NE Indiana gets glimpse of Wabash

August 15th, 2015

News Coverage:

NE Indiana gets glimpse of Wabash

Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2015 9:58 am
by Eric Seaman, eseaman@wabashplaindealer.com

Dozens of individuals from northeast Indiana embarked on a field trip, complete with a boxed lunch, on Friday, at which time they took on foot to discover Wabash.

On Friday morning, approximately 20 people from the region participated in the first installation of a multi-community regional cities field trip through its sponsor, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, which was formed nearly 10 years ago to make the area globally competitive on an economic level.

According to Lauren Zuber, the Partnership’s coordinator for Vision 2020, a regional program to attract, develop and retain workforce talent, these “field trips” were born out of the Partnership’s Regional Cities Initiative, a public-private partnership that has a goal “to transform Indiana’s approach to economic development by creating dynamic communities that attract and retain talent.”

“It started when we first started working with our consultants on our proposal. We did a familiarization tour,” Zuber advised the Plain Dealer on Friday. “We visited all 10 counties that we’re currently working with in northeast Indiana and since then Kosciusko County has been added, so no we’re up to 11.

“The two days had such great energy, but they were exhausting. It’s tough to take off two days, so as a way to continue the momentum and to help people from all over northeast Indiana get to know all of the different nooks and crannies of the region, we came up with these half-day field trips.”

Zuber noted that the field trips are designed to highlight success stories in respective areas, along with their plans for the future.

Wabash was selected as the first destiny of the series, she added, due to leaders of the community with the Partnership being “awesome to work with,” along with the “obvious energy” in the city.

“Honestly, the challenge with Wabash is to keep it just within a half-day,” Zuber said during lunch Friday on the top of the Charley Creek Inn (CCI) in its Cloud Club.

The group on Friday, a majority of which coming from Fort Wayne and many of which arriving by shuttle bus, first stopped off at the Honeywell Center, where they were able to tour most of the facility, including the backstage area of its Ford Theater.

The tour was then jettisoned to downtown Wabash’s historic Eagles Theatre, where the group was able to look at the revitalization, both past and future, of the venue’s four floors.

After a 30-minute walking tour courtesy of the Wabash County Conventions and Visitors Bureau, the assembly was given an informational session about the Regional Cities Initiative, an opportunity to discover Wabash on their own and a visit of CCI, which provided lunch.

Participating on Friday was Dan Swartz of Fort Wayne, who operates a contemporary art center on the south side of the city named Wunderkammer Company, advised that he found out about the field trip through Zuber and his experiences with the Regional Partnership.

Swartz advised the Plain Dealer that he’s been to Wabash two or three times before for things such as art judging, but didn’t have the chance to stay in Wabash for more than an abbreviated period of time.

“I’ve heard good things about your downtown,” Swartz said. “Now that I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that you’ve kept your built environment. I could see that when I drove through. ‘Cool, it’s a downtown that’s actually a downtown. It’s not just a huge parking lot.’ Fort Wayne’s downtown has some buildings, but there are lots of parking lots.

“We just destroyed a lot of things in the past so I love that you have that opportunity of just reforming things instead of constructing things from nothing.

“…Also, Wabash is just a very unique city in my mind, as far as the assets that you have for the size that you are.”

At this time, the plan for subsequent field trips will be to visit all 11 communities, Zuber said, alternating destinations every other month.