TERRE HAUTE —
Anyone who drives through the Wabash Valley can’t miss all the blighted areas, especially as they drive further into our rural communities.
One of the most recurring topics of discussion locally is how to improve blighted areas. It is true that state incentives exist for some of the more strapped small communities, but often it is cost prohibitive to tap into those funding streams.
Administrative costs usually far outweigh the incentive from the state so many communities throughout the state often have to leave “money on the table” at the end of the day.
Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate and partner with several institutions and organizations to provide educational resources to Terre Haute and surrounding areas. Collaboration is going to be a vital component to creating a sustainable and healthy environment in what is currently vacant, empty and in many instances, shell-like communities. Even in Terre Haute, there are business and residential sectors that are impeding development.
What role is required from business resources and support systems, residents, higher-education institutions and businesses? The first thing is trying to eliminate the concept of operating in a silo.
What does it mean to be operating in a silo? To operate in a silo simply means that the stakeholder doesn’t participate or support anything unless it will receive a direct benefit from it or a favor can be paid out along the way.
Unfortunately, every community has organizations that operate in a business silo and, therefore, don’t provide any or very minimal benefit to the community and the residents.
Consider using a roundtable, ecosystem or task force to address goals and objectives for the region to reduce blight, and work with silo-type organizations.
Collaboration is also important. I am on several committees, boards and roundtables, and we often discuss the importance of collaborative efforts.
Collaboration is going to be vital within each county, but also between counties, between states — Indiana, Illinois and Ohio working together — and then also as a region.
Sit back and reflect on how much impact, how many resources and how much power could be harnessed if we worked together. What would happen to each of our communities if we all rolled up our sleeves, put in some sweat equity and decided to help each other and not to perceive each other as a threat?
A wonderful example was at the end of May. “Transforming Your Local Economy” was conducted in both Terre Haute and Clinton. The event was hosted and sponsored by the Vigo County Purdue Extension Office, the WC-ISBDC, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and the City of Clinton. The event brought more than 50 people together to learn how to make our community a more enriched place to work, live and play.
Part of the discussion focused on creation, attraction, retainment, engagement and support of businesses.
As you continue to develop relationships and leverage your existing relationships, I ask you to please consider how we might all collaborate more to increase our impact and decrease the blight scattered throughout our region. And as that question is answered, then consider what initial and attainable goals can be developed to measure progress.
Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.