Press Release from MCEDC on the Northern Indiana Regional Cities Initiative Presentation to Governor Pence’s Office

Regional Cities of Northern Indiana present innovation plan to Governor’s board
Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph county leadership in harmony

Click here for photos and videos from today’s presentation

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (October 6, 2015) – At 10 a.m. this morning in Indianapolis, a team of regional leaders representing more than half a million people in Elkhart, Marshall and St. Joseph counties, presented a transformational economic development plan called Innovate Indiana to state officials from Governor Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative. The plan outlines a projected budget of $703 million with more than 60 percent coming from private sector investment.

“It is extraordinary to think of the ideas that will be presented to this Regional Cities committee over the next two days,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who opened the daylong session with a welcome message for all attendees. “I want to ensure all of you that as we reconvene the General Assembly in the ongoing future that the existing collaboration we’ve seen means this is just the beginning of the Regional Cities Initiative.”

Today’s presentation represents the final phase of an application process for a portion of $84 million in grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) that fall under the Governor’s Regional Cities Initiative. The Initiative was funded earlier this year by the state legislature’s tax amnesty program.

Dallas Bergl, President and CEO of INOVA Federal Credit Union in Elkhart set the stage for Northern Indiana’s 90-minute presentation by thanking state officials and complimenting the Governor for developing the Regional Cities Initiative.

“The Regional Cities Initiative has already proved successful in that more than 2,000 leaders from throughout our region have been working together on transformational projects that will benefit every man, woman and child in our three-county region,” Bergl said.

Bergl is one of five Regional Development Authority (RDA) board members who helped guide the multi-county development work and who approved the detailed Innovate Indiana application that was submitted on August 31st. John Affleck-Graves, Executive Vice President of the University of Notre Dame serves as President of the RDA; Regina Emberton, President of Michiana Partnership serves as Vice President. John DeSalle, Vice President of Engineering & Manufacturing for Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. and Pete McCown, President of the Elkhart County Community Foundation serve as fellow RDA board members.

All five RDA board members joined South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the official presentation which was held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. All members of the Governor’s Regional Cities Initiative board of directors convened in the auditorium setting for the presentation.

“The South Bend/Elkhart region is in the middle of one of the most transformative periods of our lifetime,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “If we can cultivate and accelerate the comeback that is now underway, these years will go down in history as the pivotal decade in the lives of our communities.”

Buttigieg, who often speaks publicly about the connected nature of cities and towns in Northern Indiana, spent a generous amount of time talking about the challenges faced in the city of Elkhart a few years ago when it led the nation in unemployment during the recession. He also talked fondly of Studebaker Corporation, but not so fondly of the 50-year legacy it left when operations ceased in South Bend back in 1963.

“Over the years, South Bend lost 25 percent of its population. But today, the region is picking itself up, seeking new opportunities that are true to our identity and history of excellence in making things, while growing in industries that did not even exist when the last Studebaker rolled off the line,” Buttigieg said. “We are ready to take full advantage of what we have always had going for us—a tradition of innovation and excellence in workmanship and production, an unbeatable work ethic, a distinctive location with an edge in infrastructure from asphalt and rails to energy and fiber, and the resources of a world-class university that has accepted a leadership role in the life of our region.”

“There are over 40,000 students enrolled in our region’s colleges, academies and universities,” added RDA Board Member Pete McCown. “More than 40 percent of them come from out of state or from other countries. So, we’re building an innovation culture to keep them here. Each of our marquee projects are designed to improve density, productivity, connectivity and amenities. We agree with the recent articles in Forbes magazine and Harvard Business Review that this is a place where collaborative partnerships are building a culture of innovation.”

Regina Emberton, Vice President for the RDA, detailed five of the 39 major projects outlined in the Innovate Indiana plan that will drive population growth, productivity, innovation and spur more activity across the region. The projects include major amenity improvements to the Riverwalk area in downtown Elkhart, the east side of the St. Joseph River near downtown South Bend, further expansion into Marshall and Elkhart counties of the “dark” fiber optic network called Metronet, major improvements to the South Shore rail system and further development adjacent to Ignition Park in the old Studebaker buildings where a technology boom is taking place.

“Today, I have the honor of presenting the marquee projects that we see as being catalysts for every other project in our region,” Emberton said. “We’re at a precise time in our regional history where we have permission to believe in bold innovative ideas.”

To view the 10-minute video Innovate Indiana, click here.

To view the 4-minute video Don’t Underestimate Us, click here.

“Ten years from now we will be bearing the fruit of the Regional Cities Initiative,” said John Affleck-Graves, President of the RDA. “We will be a region where each of our 22 cities and towns will truly be integrated into one place that attracts and retains highly talented and successful individuals. (This initiative) breaks down borders and brings people together. Our future is unlimited. We look forward to working with the state on making this a watershed moment in history. We are the South Bend/Elkhart region and we are on the move.”

Regional Cities of Northern Indiana is working with private, academic and public leaders throughout the region to nurture and formalize large-scale projects that will transform the region by spurring population growth and improve quality of life. The RDA, led by its five-member board, will be guided by this comprehensive strategic development plan as it oversees projects of regional importance.

About Regional Cities of Northern Indiana Regional Cities of Northern Indiana serves over half a million people in 22 interconnected cities and towns in Northern Indiana through a commitment to pursuing transformational economic development projects and strategic initiatives for the entire region. In doing so, the group consists of and leverages the vast experience and services of Northern Indiana’s leading business, academic, philanthropic and government leaders. For more information, visit

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