News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 23, 2013

Planning session aims to better Terre Haute

Leaders: groundwork laid for future community plan

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It’s not yet clear what will come of it, but dozens of community leaders spent the whole day Wednesday trying to develop a plan – or collection of plans – to make Terre Haute “a better community.”

The meeting, which lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the First Financial Conference Center on South Seventh Street, was not open to the media, but, when it was over, participants said the gathering laid the groundwork for a future “community plan,” dedicated to addressing a wide range of topics.

“You couldn’t possibly walk away from this meeting and say we didn’t accomplish something,” said Norm Lowery, president and CEO of First Financial and chairman of the group’s steering committee. “It’s a historic day.”

The approximately 90 business, education, non-profit and government leaders divided themselves into 14 different “action teams” based on their area of interest, participants said. The topics to be tackled by the teams include workforce development, infrastructure, community appearance, drugs, community wellness, high school and college retention, economic development and more.

Wednesday’s meeting, facilitated by Chorus, an Indianapolis consulting and planning group, was a joint effort of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. and the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. Known as “Terre Haute Tomorrow,” it is patterned after a similar effort from about 10 years ago that spawned the Terre Haute EDC, Wabash River Development and Beautification, Inc. (Riverscape) and the “Level Above” brand for the City of Terre Haute.

“We’re building on the success of that effort,” said Paul Thrift, a principal with Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute-based contractor. Thrift was key in getting the new effort underway, Lowery said.

A printed version of a community plan with specific goals is expected to emerge in the next three- to six months, said Michael Evans, president and CEO of Chorus. Before Wednesday’s meeting, Chorus surveyed dozens of the eventual participants and also send a survey to about 1,300 people whose contact information was provided by the Chamber, Evans said. That survey, which asked questions about ways to improve the community, had about a 12 percent response rate, he said.

While there are already organizations dealing with many or all of the topics identified by the “action teams,” Terre Haute Tomorrow offers a much broader approach, said Dan Bradley, president of Indiana State University and a participant in Wednesday’s meeting. These topics are too important to leave to one group, he said.

The Terre Haute Tomorrow planning process is open to anyone who is passionate about improving the community, participants said.

“It’s not a matter of who’s going to do this,” said Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute EDC. “We have to do it.”

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