South Bend-Elkhart Regional Economic Development Strategy Plan Revealed

Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The South Bend-Elkhart Region unveiled its new Regional Economic Development Strategy on Tuesday, February 6th.

Around 100 people have been working for more than a year as part of a grassroots effort to craft a plan to raise per capita income in the South Bend-Elkhart Region, which includes 47 smart, connected communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. Several hundred people gathered in Mishawaka to hear about the planning effort and how to make it reality.

"Ensuring Prosperity for the South Bend - Elkhart Region," a 35-page white paper authored by regional writer and journalist Marshall V. King, outlines goals that five committees honed through meetings starting in late 2016.

The momentum that resulted in the plan started with the formation of Michiana Partnership, now called South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership, in 2011 and gained speed with the application for a Regional Cities grant from the state of Indiana. The region won the $42 million grant and demonstrated how the region working together is in everyone's best interest and served as a catalyst for the formation of the Regional Development Authority.

A 15-member group conducted a situational analysis, resulting in the formation of five groups to focus on how to drive regional economic growth. The completed plan is focused on raising per capita personal income to equal or exceed the national average by 2025.

The primary goals so that the region can raise income and make the region competitive globally for employers and workers are:

Education & Workforce

Raise the post-secondary attainment level among the region's residents from
30 percent to 50 percent by 2025.

Talent Attraction & Retention

Transforming net out-migration (now nearly double the state average of 2 persons per 1,000 per year) to a positive in-migration by 2025.

Industry Growth

Growing jobs in higher-pay traded industry clusters by 20 percent by 2025.
Help establish 200 high-potential startups, both privately and by commercializing research from local universities, by 2025.

Diversity & Inclusion

Improve South Bend - Elkhart Region's national MSA percentile rank of minority income disparity from the 15th percentile to the 80th percentile by 2025.

"For the region to come together in this fashion has tremendous power," said John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president for the University of Notre Dame and a member of the RDA. "We have a great plan thanks to the work of so many volunteers. What we need to do now is act and execute the plan together as a region."

The South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership will lead many of the activities to achieve the goals. "We're excited to bring together residents of the region who are already doing amazing things and help coordinate them to achieve common goals," said Regina Emberton, Partnership President and CEO.

"This is a significant coalescing for the region, but not the first. Do we not all benefit when we need to make our way to Indianapolis because of the U.S. 31 Coalition?," said Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and chairman of this process for the RDA. "The South Bend - Elkhart Region needs more than a singular win. We need to continue to work together as a region to achieve what we can't as individual communities."

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