News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 1, 2014

Tomorrow’s visions of downtown

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Imagine you were frozen — an easy task this winter — only to thaw out in the middle of downtown Terre Haute 10 years from now.

What do you think you’d see?

That’s what folks with Terre Haute Tomorrow are working on right now and their goal is to make sure the Terre Haute of 2024 is better than it is today.

Terre Haute Tomorrow is a volunteer group of dozens of local business, education, government and not-for-profit leaders working to improve the city over the next decade. They’ve been busy meeting for the past several months in different sub-groups — called “action teams” — dealing with everything from the city’s image to its workforce to its infrastructure.

“You need people with visionary thinking to make a change,” said Brian Miller, chairman of the communications committee for Terre Haute Tomorrow. Last May, 84 community leaders met at the First Financial Bank conference center on South Seventh Street for an initial organizational meeting to set goals for long-range planning. Those 84 people are “visionaries in our community,” Miller said.

But Terre Haute Tomorrow is not limited to a select few, said Norm Lowery, chairman of the THT steering committee and a founder of the organization.

“There is plenty of work to do, so anyone who wants to join can,” Lowery said.

Miller agreed: “We’re trying to engage all of the talent and intellect in our community we can,” he said.

Using survey data, focus groups and leadership questionnaires, Terre Haute Tomorrow has identified five areas where the city could use improvement.

An “action team” has been established to handle each area and each team is further sub-divided into smaller subgroups, Lowery said.

Each action team has been hard at work for months and is expected to provide a specific 10-year plan soon.

“We’ve got a very energetic group,” Lowery said of the Quality of Life/Community Image action team, of which he is chairman. The committee currently includes about 27 people and is growing. Subcommittees within the team are tackling illicit drug use, community health, diversity and the appearance and image of the community.

Past research showed Terre Haute suffers from a poor self-image and an out-of-date external image, Lowery said. The committee is working to change that, he said.

Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., is chairman of the Economic Development action team. Members of that team are working on plans to — among other things — promote a business-friendly environment in the city, increase the local tax base and increase median household income.

“The entire THT initiative will have a tremendously positive impact on our economic development efforts going forward,” Witt said.

“What good are sites, buildings and incentives if no one wants to live in a community?” Witt asked. “By making our community a place where people want to be, economic development success will follow. That, in essence, is what Terre Haute Tomorrow is all about.”

Terre Haute Tomorrow has its roots in a similar effort from 2001 that was a joint effort of the Alliance for Growth and Progress and the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. Out of that effort emerged the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., the “Level Above” logo for the city and — indirectly — the Riverscape river front improvement group. That original THT effort involved far fewer people, Miller said. This new effort is far more comprehensive.

“How can we be better?” is the key question each action team and subcommittee is charged with answering, Miller said. “We have to think our community as a whole unit,” he said. “Terre Haute Tomorrow is every one of us.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.