A message from President and CEO, Tara Barney

It’s all about ‘talent’

Tara Barney, President & CEO, Southwest Indiana Chamber

It’s been a year. I’m a Hoosier now. From Day One I committed myself to exploring, getting to know our businesses, our assets and challenges, the institutions and community treasures that define our region. You’ve made me welcome and very proud of my decision to join this community and the Southwest Indiana Chamber team. What are my biggest takeaways from my “listening tour?” We have a great business environment. Our location is America’s best for distribution. The quality of our workforce, our talent if you will, is extraordinary: productive, hardworking, innovative. Above all, the loyalty quotient for our region is off the charts ­— folks really do love living here.
And I’ve heard a boatload about challenges that will limit our growth and prosperity. Ironically, again, it’s all about our workforce, not just the quality but the quantity of people available and prepared to fill the jobs our businesses need to grow and prosper here.
We’ve got to tackle this issue. If not, major employers won’t expand, local businesses can’t provide their hallmark customer service, new businesses will think twice before choosing our region for investment. How do we go about the talent shortage? One person, one job at a time.
The greater Evansville region is moving in the right direction. The Regional Cities projects have set us on a path of regional cooperation by launching a set of quality-of-place initiatives that are putting us on the map; we are cooler, we have begun to transform downtown Evansville, we are investing in all corners of our region from Oakland City College to new medical facilities in Posey County. This is outstanding progress!
In this newsletter we are highlighting some of the “best practices” that are addressing both our region’s immediate need for qualified employees and our need to prepare our citizens for the jobs of the future. The secret sauce for our region’s success is two-fold. Yes, we must attract talent to our region. And yes we must find more productive career pathways for our existing workforce. A high school diploma is step one. The 20,000+ adults in our region who did not complete high school are limited in earning potential. About 30% of these folks are living below the poverty level, and they are not able to fill the jobs and build the careers our employers need. Our employers are doing their part: take Toyota’s A Brighter Future partnership with Vincennes University and WorkOne Southwest. This investment will change lives one at a time by covering the costs for Hoosiers to earn their High School Equivalency, graduate and then move into hundreds of career options. If just 1% of these 20,000+ adults can earn a High School Equivalency, their earning power is boosted by $1,700,000. That’s an impactful number.
Tune in to what our region’s employers are doing to address both our biggest challenge and our biggest opportunity. It is all about “talent.”