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KEDCO Talent & Entrepreneurship Stories:  Strategic agenda for Warsaw creates more opportunities for connection

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Warsaw identified for pilot program

KEDCO recently shared an announcement from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) highlighting a community-centered economic inclusion (CCEI) plan for the City of Warsaw. Warsaw was one of just three cities in the state identified last year to participate in a year-long pilot project, referred to as a learning lab, to develop the CCEI strategic plan or agenda.

This initiative was led by national community development professionals with The Brookings Institution (Brookings) and Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) and was funded by the IEDC. The Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) was identified to help lead efforts locally, and a number of area residents, business, and community leaders have played key roles in developing the plan.

Brookings and LISC have implemented CCEI plans in urban areas such as the Far Eastside of Indianapolis, parts of southern Los Angeles, and areas of Philadelphia. And although fruits of these place-based initiatives take time and patience, Brookings and LISC continue reporting successes in these areas. IEDC formed a partnership with Brookings and LISC to explore implementing CCEI in smaller cities in the Hoosier state, and Warsaw was offered the opportunity to participate.

“The City of Warsaw’s selection to participate was an acknowledgement of our potential to benefit from the intended impacts of the learning lab planning,” said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer. “Featuring broad community participation, the desired outcomes reflected the needs of those target areas with lesser advantage. This was a great benefit of the CCEI project.” 

LISC and Brookings will use findings from the pilot program to inform their rollout of CCEI to other small cities across the nation.

Understanding more about CCEI

What exactly is CCEI? Community-centered economic inclusion or CCEI focuses on specific geographic areas within cities and developing place-based strategies to bridge gaps in health, wealth, and opportunity. The long-term objective is to improve underinvested areas of cities to create more connection, and foster equity and prosperity for more residents.

“Our Agenda is already providing guidance as we strive to achieve measurable results.  As we work to close gaps in economic opportunity, we are creating a better quality of life, quality of place and quality of opportunity for all,” said KEDCO Leadership Partner Suzie Light.

A community-driven plan

Warsaw’s Critical Corridor Connections agenda includes the Winona Avenue and Market Street corridors from Warsaw to Winona Lake, the Buffalo Street corridor and downtown Warsaw, and the Argonne Road corridor which serves as the gateway to Winona Lake.

“The identified area is key to downtown Warsaw,” said KEDCO CEO Alan Tio. “The area includes one-third of the City’s population and is home to diverse businesses and landmark locations such as the fairgrounds and Lakeview Middle School. And there’s much opportunity to reinvigorate and build upon what we already have.”

Findings from Brookings and LISC highlighted a great need and opportunity for more connection. Warsaw’s plan will create more connection amongst people, places, and opportunities. The agenda outlines specific initiatives to advance its built environment (infrastructure, landscape, etc.) economic development, civic life and social life, including projects and programs such as reviving downtown, inspiring entrepreneurship, advancing access to living wage manufacturing jobs, increasing public access to lakes and recreation assets and reinvigorating industrial heritage sites.

“This is the community’s agenda. We brought together a broad coalition for this project including employers, entrepreneurs, the Latino business and faith community, the arts community, public schools and higher education, city and county government officials, nonprofit leaders, philanthropy and more,” said Light.

With a plan in place, Warsaw and Kosciusko County will be better positioned for future community and economic investments, such as funding from the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). Funding through READI is allocated toward strategic investments in quality of life, quality of place and quality of opportunity.

To learn more, read the press release from IEDC and view Warsaw’s “Critical Corridor Connections” growth agenda:

Learn more about KEDCO and how the organization is making an impact in Kosciusko County by connecting on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @kosciuskoedc.