Drew Klacik serves as keynote speaker at Grant County Economic Growth Council banquet

April 10, 2015

Drew Klacik, Senior Policy Analyst at the IU Public Policy Institute

Drew Klacik, Senior Policy Analyst at the IU Public Policy Institute

The following article originally appeared in the Chronicle-Tribune

The Grant County Economic Growth Council celebrated 30 years of community collaboration with its annual banquet.

Many members of the community, including city officials and local school officials, attended the event at Ivy Tech on Thursday night.

"We began this tradition probably within the first five or six years of the Growth Council. Basically, it's a celebration of collaboration in Grant County," said Grant County Economic Growth Council President Tim Eckerle. "It started out with local officials getting together and having a dinner. It was maybe 20 people and now it's grown to about 200."

Eckerle, who warmly greeted many of the attendees as they arrived at the banquet, said the event is all about the community and celebrating what it has accomplished.

"Obviously it is easy to sit there and get overwhelmed by the challenges," he said. "It's important to remember that they're having successes."

The keynote speaker for the banquet was Drew Klacik, urban policy expert with the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment.

"I like to look big picture and so the question is, how does Marion and Grant County fit into the changing Indiana?" Klacik said. "One of the challenges is that the future is increasingly one of larger metropolitan areas and Marion is kind of trapped in between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis."

Klacik asked the question "When Marion thinks about a major city, who do they feel they are connected to?" to highlight some of the "challenges of being relatively distant from a major metropolitan area when they're competing for young millennials who have choice."

"The cool thing from looking at the data is that you're doing better than one would logically expect given the challenges of your location. There are a lot of reasons for that," Klacik said. "The city and the county have come up with lots of cool programs that are trying to emulate or sometimes lead exactly the same kind of programs major metropolitan areas are developing to attract and retain young talent."

Klacik also praised the strong community connections and local universities.

"Taylor, Indiana Wesleyan and Ivy Tech aren't quite at the same student enrollment size as an IU or Purdue, but I suspect there are wonderful partnerships between the city, the county and the universities that can play an important role in helping Marion and Grant County continue to thrive within an environment that suggests that they need to continue to work hard to ensure they have a pleasant future," he said.

The banquet also marked the 30th anniversary for the Economic Growth Council. A special 30-year history book was distributed at the event. Three people were announced as recipients of the Champion of Economic Development Award; Karen Niverson, Madonna French and Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold.

"If you look at future trends then collaboration, sharing of resources and working together to make places better are themes that many communities are trying to develop that you all appear to have had historically," Klacik said. "That is another reason why you're doing better than I would have expected you did before I studied the data about Marion and Grant County."

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