Regional leaders to develop economic development strategy for Southwest Central Indiana

Regional leaders to develop economic development strategy for Southwest Central Indiana

Effort funded through planning grant from Lilly Endowment

(INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., July 2013) Leaders from industry, academia, community organizations and a federal military base have united to develop a strategic plan that leverages the unique assets of the Southwest Central Indiana region to drive economic growth and enhance residents’ quality of life.

A $650,000 planning grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will enable the Southwest Central Indiana region to identify opportunities, assets and resources that can be better utilized and coordinated to provide economic opportunities for its residents and communities. The region includes a world-class research university (Indiana University – Bloomington) and Naval Support Activity Crane, a military base which houses Indiana’s only federal laboratory, which collectively employ more than 10,000 people. Its growing life sciences industry employs another 4,400 people, and there is a high concentration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs. The region also has a thriving hospitality and entertainment industry and is home to the state’s largest concentration of state forests, parks, lakes, fish and wildlife areas. Additionally, the new I-69 corridor between Evansville and Indianapolis runs through the heart of this region, which is expected to enhance economic development opportunities and offer greater connectivity through shorter routes and travel times.

Initially, the strategic planning efforts will focus on 11 counties in the region: Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties. These counties represent the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s Economic Growth Region 8, plus all of the counties served by Radius│Indiana. Throughout the planning process, the geographical focus may evolve as the plan develops. A steering committee consisting of regional leaders and stakeholders invested in the Southwest Central Indiana region will lead the planning effort. Steering committee members include:

  • Brian Blackwell, director, Office of Engagement, NSWC Crane;
  • Duane Embree, national director of Military and Defense Initiatives, Ivy Tech Community College;
  • Paul Mitchell, president and CEO, Energy Systems Network (ESN);
  • Dan Peterson, vice president of Industry and Government Affairs, Cook Group; Steering Committee Chair;
  • Tina Peterson, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County
  • Becky Skillman, president and CEO, Radius│Indiana;
  • William Stephan, vice president for Engagement, Indiana University;

Steering Committee Chair Dan Peterson says it’s not only the diversity of expertise of the committee members, but their commitment to collaborative strategic planning that will make it a successful project. “Each of these committee members is deeply invested in the success of this unique part of the state – both on a professional and a personal level,” he said. “It’s a landmark opportunity to capitalize on their widespread expertise for such an important common goal.” 
“The Southwest Central Indiana region has great potential for dramatic growth in a number of key sectors,” said ESN President and CEO Paul Mitchell. “Unlocking this potential will require a unified plan that leaders are prepared to leverage and co-invest in.” 

Lilly Endowment’s grant was awarded to the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership Foundation, which supports the charitable and educational activities of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP), and will be managed by ESN, a CICP initiative that will support the activities of the steering committee and produce a comprehensive plan. This work builds on an initial planning grant from Lilly Endowment which was used to conduct asset mapping and data analysis on the defined region. While the results showed strong potential for enhanced growth, the steering committee recognized more work and engagement with regional leaders was required to develop a robust regional plan and shared vision for Southwest Central Indiana. 

ESN has selected Lori Torres, former commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor in Governor Mitch Daniels’ administration, to serve as project director for the 12-month grant period. The steering committee will meet regularly to develop a set of recommendations for the region. Recommendations from local and regional leaders, economic and workforce development experts, community foundations and the public will be solicited throughout the process. 

“Community involvement is critical in these types of planning projects to ensure the final proposal is representative of what the people who live and work here want,” said Torres. “The committee is looking forward to hearing from people from all corners of the region to get them engaged and invested in the outcomes of this process.” 

The steering committee has already begun meeting and will coordinate public listening sessions later this year. The plan is expected to be finalized by mid-2014. 

Energy Systems Network (ESN) is a not for profit, industry-driven economic initiative focused on bringing alternative energy technology solutions to market, using innovation to confront global energy challenges with systems-level solutions. In 2012, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) initiative broke ground on the Battery Innovation Center (BIC) in the Southwest Central Indiana region. The BIC is a customer-driven single point of access for battery research, development, testing and commercialization. The $20 million facility is located at Westgate Technology Park in Crane, Ind. and will open operations beginning later this year, providing significant economic growth to the area. For more information, visit

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at


Melissa Roberts, Energy Systems Network

Raquel Bahamonde, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership

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