FRENCH LICK — Last year, Radius Indiana unveiled its new tourism initiative: “Discover Southern Indiana,” and now, there’s a website in place to promote the area to visitors.

Launched last week, the website, www.discoversouthernindiana.com, features a 90-second video that takes visitors on a tour of the eight-county region Radius serves, focusing on Patoka Lake, farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals, train excursions, wineries, community parks, state parks, cave systems and unique restaurants. It introduces visitors to attractions, events, sports, shopping, arts and culture, food and drink, heritage and outdoor recreation. And, most importantly, a vacation planner for those who wish to stay and enjoy all that southern Indiana has to offer.

“We’re really excited about this project,” said Jeff Quyle, CEO of Radius.

The website was introduced during Radius Indiana’s Annual Stakeholders Meeting at the French Lick Resort Wednesday.

Blaine Parker, director of tourism and quality of place for Radius, unveiled the website, explaining how the goal was to “capture the look and feel of the region.”

“The end product has been well worth the wait,” Parker said.

Radius launched its “Discover Southern Indiana” tourism effort last spring, noting it was the first of its kind in the area and was aimed at giving the area an identity. The goal was to unify tourism across the region, which includes Lawrence, Orange, Washington, Martin, Dubois, Daviess, Greene and Crawford counties. According to Rockport Analytics, tourism is one of the leading industries in the Radius region, accounting for $290.4 million in tourism spending and providing 3,930 jobs in 2017. With such a level of economic impact on the region, tourism serves as a large economic driver for jobs and quality of place initiatives.

Supporting one another

The meeting also was an opportunity for Radius officials to tout the regional economic development initiatives that took place in 2019.

Quyle noted that in 2019 the region saw 30% more economic development activity, including new business and expansions, than it did in 2018.

“And that’s just what we know about,” he said. “... It’s a sign of the many good things happening in the region.”

Touting the collaboration that takes place throughout the region, Quyle pointed out how the focus has been on ways to upskill workers, support entrepreneurism and small businesses and increase cybersecurity skills.

“... The way to succeed is to not do things on our own, but to collaborate,” he said. “... The folks in our region collaborate together for better communities.”

One example of that is the White River Military Coordination Alliance, which initiates communication between Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division and the communities that surround the base. The focus of the 24-member alliance is to create opportunities for economic prosperity and land conservation in the region, safeguard Crane’s military mission and protect community health and safety.

The meeting also featured a six-person panel, led by Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner, which focused on talent attraction and quality of place. The speakers — Misty Weisensteiner, director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Rachel Zajac, chief of staff of the Office of Career Connections and Talent, Ben Wrightsman, president and CEO of the Battery Innovation Center, Wes Wood, director of INvets, and Tina Peterson, president and CEO of Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc. — discussed how quality of place works in tandem with talent attraction in rural Indiana.

Zajac discussed how the low unemployment rate in Indiana makes “talent somewhat hard to come by.” Prospective employees, because of the healthy job market, can now be choosier about where they live, picking jobs based on the communities in which they are located. She also said the ability for many employees to work remotely also affects quality of place because they can live anywhere.

“That’s why we have to invest in our communities,” Weisensteiner said.

Much of the discussion also focused on how the region is working to recruit veterans to fill job openings.

“It’s an attractive population for us to target,” Wood said. “We go out and try to proactively engage with veterans.”

Focusing on those areas of development, the panel said, makes the Indiana, as well as the Radius region, unique.

“The key to working in a rural region is to not do what everyone else is doing,” Wrightsman told the stakeholders. “... We have to find a way to go out and tell our story.”

Weisensteiner agreed: “We have to become cheerleaders of our own state.”

© 2020 TMNews.com, Bedford, IN.