Region’s elected officials form caucus

June 29th, 2012

News Coverage:

Region’s elected officials form caucus

By Rick Farrant rfarrant@fwbusiness.com

Friday, Jun. 29, 2012 at 12:00am

Mayors and county commissioners from 10 northeast Indiana counties have formed a caucus to work collaboratively on policy issues of common interest, economic-development leaders announced.

The formation of the caucus is yet another layer of a regional collaboration focus that gained momentum late last year through the unveiling of Vision 2020 economic development priorities and a fact-finding trip to Denver by economic-development officials and community leaders.

Shortly after the Denver trip, Business Weekly reported mayors were working to form a mayors caucus. John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said county commissioners also were considering forming a caucus at the time, and the two entities have since decided to merge.

“When we work together,” Sampson said, “it just increases the length of the lever, particularly at the state level. If you get 10 counties speaking together on a policy level, it brings great clarity for state legislators.”

The counties represented by the caucus are: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.

“This,” said Angola Mayor Richard Hickman, “is bold leadership by the mayors and commissioners of northeast Indiana. We have come to fully embrace the power of building trust and collaborative leadership with our fellow elected officials, which is essential to solve today’s community challenges and grow our regional economy.”

The partnership, WorkOne Northeast and the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana assisted in convening the mayors and commissioners to establish the caucus.

The three groups, Sampson said, will provide back-office support for the caucus in its future endeavors.

One of the first acts of the caucus was to endorse Vision 2020’s top goal: increasing the percentage of residents in northeast Indiana with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

Economic-development officials have said educational and skills attainment is one of the keys to developing, attracting and retaining talent.

“(Talent) is the most urgent challenge we are facing as community leaders to assure businesses can grow and create 21st-century jobs,” said Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown. “We have committed to work together as elected officials throughout northeast Indiana to advance and sustain our efforts to achieve the big goal.”