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Region's mayors strategize at IU Kokomo summit

July 2011

Industry, government, and higher education of north-central Indiana must join forces -- creating a "triple helix" -- to successfully land businesses and improve quality of life. Regionalization and other collaborative ideas were discussed during a recent Mayor's Summit hosted by Indiana University Kokomo.

Mayors' Conference

IU Kokomo Chancellor Michael Harris, standing, addresses north-central Indiana mayors at a recent summit.

Print-Quality Photo

Ten of the region's mayors met with Chancellor Michael Harris to strategize how communities can work together to be competitive in a global economy. Penny Lee, vice chancellor of public affairs and advancement, moderated the event.

"North-central Indiana should be a region that is recognized nationally. We at IU Kokomo believe very strongly in what is becoming known as the triple helix. It is based on close, collaborative efforts among industry, government, and universities," Harris said. "It's only those regions where industry is alive, where government is involved, and where there exists a strong university that they will be ahead of the competition.

"We would like to see more strengthening of that triple helix effect," he said. "The bottom line, of course, is assuring the American dream. We believe the future is in abundance."

A recent report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors was a point of discussion. The mayoral panel also talked about economic realities facing their cities and explored ideas for continual collaboration and enhanced economic development.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight welcomed the panel and emphasized the importance of coming together to examine ways to enhance collaboration.

Regionalization is a way to give people hope, said Mayor Wayne Seybold of Marion. "In order for regionalization to work, we need to plan for it," Seybold said. "We need to have someone lead the process."

Monticello Mayor Jason Thompson said one obstacle faced by cities is finding skilled workers.

"Industries that are coming can't get the skilled worker," Thompson said. "They don't have the math skill to run robotic machinery in the assembly line."

Mike Fincher, mayor of Logansport, emphasized the importance of an educated workforce, stating that owners of companies looking to relocate or establish a new business always ask the skill and education level of potential employees.

"If we're going to be a marketable commodity, we need a better educated workforce," he said.

The region faces challenges based on transforming from a manufacturing workforce to an economy of knowledge and innovation, where only entrepreneurs will survive, Harris said.

"This isn't unique here. We believe the regional campuses play a significant role in economic development, a vision of IU President Michael McRobbie," Harris said. "We are living in a tremendous era of globalization. It is no longer just Logansport and Kokomo. It's a tsunami out there that is coming at us fast."

Mayors in attendance were Randy Strasser, Delphi; Greg Goodnight, Kokomo; Huck Lewis, Lebanon; Michael Fincher, Logansport; Wayne Seybold, Marion; Jason Thompson, Monticello; Jim Walker, Peru; Bruce Hosier, Portland; Mark Smiley, Rochester; Steven Croyle, Winchester. Hodge Patel, district director for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, also joined the panel.