In any region of the country there are a number of economic drivers that can be observed to demonstrate the social and economic health of a region, directionally. Success in these wide-ranging indicators such as population growth, poverty levels, health indexes, graduation rates, employment growth, wage rates, etc., are often motivating factors for individuals and businesses looking for a place to start or continue a career and start or expand a business enterprise. In Southwest Indiana, we continue to make great progress in many of these areas and key for our region is to not be shy about promoting our successes nor be shy about exploring opportunities for improvement.
In 2018, the Southwest Indiana Chamber celebrated a number of successes including legislative wins that supported workforce development efforts, a regional development tax credit to encourage continued investment in our region, and legislation aimed at curbing opioid substance abuse for the health of our region. A new bridge connecting Indiana and Kentucky along I-69 would provide opportunities for significant economic expansion on both sides of the Ohio River, and Bridgelink committee advocacy efforts continue to support the completion of the bridge with the draft Environmental Impact Statement completed at the end of 2018.
In addition, we celebrated the realization of the vision that so many community and business leaders have shared for our region with the opening of the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, construction starts of the new downtown Evansville YMCA, the Post House mixed-use development, and the new downtown Evansville Hyatt Place hotel, all in our region’s vital core. And the completion of renovation and modernization efforts to Evansville Regional Airport now provides a beautiful front door to our region.
We also celebrated exciting regional projects throughout our Gateway Communities. These projects include: the Warrick Trail Network and the Warrick Wellness Trail; Newburgh’s new hotel, TownePlace Suites; as well as continued revitalization efforts in Posey County including the Southwest Indiana Chamber Posey County Office and Posey County Economic Development Partnership relocating their offices to downtown Mt. Vernon.
These successes clearly support so many of the vitally important economic drivers mentioned in the beginning of this letter. Successes like these would not have been possible without the strong leadership, vision, and collaborations of so many outstanding leaders in local government, local business, and numerous community focused organizations across the region.
Chamber President and CEO Tara Barney and I look forward with anticipation to the great opportunities awaiting us in the coming year. Progress often takes time to manifest the benefits we hope to achieve, and it can be challenging to move regions toward shared goals. Southwest Indiana is no exception to these challenges but the momentum that we have gained in recent years, as evidenced by the projects and initiatives mentioned here, can take our region to even greater heights. With initiatives like “E is for Everyone” providing a platform to rightly tout our successes and serve as a regional engagement and attraction tool, we are well on our way to position Southwest Indiana as a premier region for people, jobs, and investment.
I hope you will join us in 2019 and collaborate with the Chamber, the “E is for Everyone” initiative, or other community organizations and share your vision for the future of our region because “together we thrive!”