A countywide initiative is under way to help identify local assets and possible projects to improve quality of place, workforce development and attraction, and local amenities, and local officials got together Wednesday to discuss possible projects and problems that need addressed.

According to Bryant Niehoff, executive director of the Daviess County Economic Development Corp. and Foundation, the local project is similar to what is taking place in the 11 counties served by the Regional Opportunities Initiative in Bloomington, and a $50,000 grant has been approved to help the county develop a strategic plan dealing with those issues specifically.

A core leadership team composed of representatives from the Daviess County Community Foundation, the City of Washington, the Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, Purdue Extension and others have been working on the initial parameters of the planning process.

Leaders and representatives from more than 40 local business, civic, religious, media, government and academic officials and administrators met for lunch Wednesday at the Daviess County Security Center as a broader Quality of Place Advisory Team (QPAT). The QPAT group talked over ideas of what makes Daviess County a great place to live, and also what the county might need to make it even better.

The 30-plus leaders discussed countywide branding, streetscapes, trail systems, arts and culture, tourism, a possible parking garage downtown, housing issues, rural broadband, childcare shortages, a centrally-located career center near the interstate and international relations.

The plan will feature local input, including two upcoming public Town Halls, that will include critical data and identify possible projects to advance the county and region in those targeted applications.

“Daviess County already has a lot going for it like a high rate of median income growth, an expanding population, and other significant advantages,” said Niehoff. “This ROI Ready Communities grant gives us the capacity to go to leaders and residents to formally determine the quality of place, workforce attraction, and workforce development needs of the county so we can continue to move the needle.”

For the county to continue growth, it must address issues like talent attraction and retention, improving amenities like housing and supporting services, and continuing to make Daviess County an attractive place to live, work and raise a family, the executive director continued. “These are competitive issues that every county in the ROI region currently faces,” said Niehoff. “So, we’re grateful that we have these resources from ROI to begin to formally address them in a unique way.”

All previous and current county-related strategic plans and studies are formally and carefully being considered and analyzed as part of this process.

“The grant process positively requires that we build on what’s already been done in terms of planning,” said Niehoff. “That way we can focus on exploring new and fresh options while also acknowledging all of the positive work that has been done in the past.”

The plans being reviewed include various master plans for the county and communities within the county, rural housing studies and existing vision plans such as those associated with the WestGate@Crane Technology Park.

Part of the process is gathering data through a new countywide online survey, which can be accessed at http://bit.ly/DaviessCountySurvey (a Spanish language version will also shortly be available). “This important survey is open to all Daviess County residents, and we encourage everyone to go online and take it,” Niehoff emphasized.

“This process gives people in Daviess County an important opportunity to broadly energize county residents and help motivate all to advance our communities and region,” said Mary Smith, executive director of the Daviess County Community Foundation.

“We expect this positive effort to bring together new ideas and new concepts for projects that will help enhance our established quality of place, better retain and attract a high quality of workforce, and enhance existing amenities that help make our region attractive,” added Cindy Barber, community development educator for the Purdue Extension in Daviess County.

Data collected from Wednesday’s meeting will help formulate the possible scope of what is needed in the county.

This summary will be presented at two upcoming public Town Halls on June 11 in Washington at the Community Building, Eastside Park, and Wednesday, at the Odon Community & Senior Citizens Center, 311 Park St. Both meetings are scheduled to last between 4-6 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.

“Participation by the people of Daviess County in these Town Halls is absolutely critical to the success of our initial planning process and projects identified through the process,” said Niehoff. “We are encouraging people to pick one of these dates and attend one of the early evening meetings in June – community feedback is essential and will represent a sizable part of what we formally submit to ROI.”

The Ready Communities grants being administered by ROI provide counties in south central Indiana with needed resources to create actionable programs that can positively impact quality of place, workforce development and attraction, and the attributes and amenities that make those counties and communities a desirable place to live, work and play.

The leadership team has secured the firms, The MEK Group, Group Stellar and kglobal, to facilitate the process and help draft the plan for submission.

“MEK has a history of making similar contributions to Daviess County, and Group Stellar and kglobal hold a great deal of experience in helping other counties strategically assemble their plans, so we’re confident that we have strong resources in place to maximize this effort,” Niehoff said.

Additional details will be forthcoming. The completed plan is expected to be delivered and formally submitted to ROI by the end of June, together with identified potential projects to address quality of place, workforce and amenities issues. Once the plan is approved by ROI, Daviess County will then be eligible to apply for addition funding for selected projects.
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