Southwest Indiana Chamber announces merger with economic and community development groups

Unified organization will align the interests of business, community institutions and residents to drive regional prosperity and community growth.

Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville and Southwest Indiana Chamber announce actions by their respective Boards to merge the three organizations, effective April 1, 2021. Through a shared vision and coordinated efforts, the new organization will advance the interests of businesses and fuel economic and community growth in the Evansville region.

“All three organizations have a proud tradition of accomplishment,” said Greg Wathen, President and CEO of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana. “By pooling  and unifying essential economic development functions into a single structure, we have an opportunity to better serve the region with a bolder vision for the future.”

The unified organization will work to advance regional prosperity and global relevance by building on the trusted relationships and legacy of its predecessor organizations. Together they will carry forward areas of impact, including business attraction, retention and expansion, pro- economy public policy work, community development, entrepreneurship, talent attraction, quality  of place enhancement and regional growth strategy.

“The process to craft a new organization was very deliberate by design to give each community their respective voice,” said Ben Shoulders, Vanderburgh County Commissioner President. “I’m  confident that the organization will meet the future needs of Vanderburgh County as well as the other counties who make-up Southwest Indiana and it is equally important that the new organization will focus on being diverse and inclusive.”

A merger committee composed of appointees from all three organizations has been meeting since early October to build on the work the three organizations have been doing cooperatively since the onset of COVID-19 impacts. Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke praised the action of the boards: “These organizations have worked as one over the past year facilitating and serving  the needs of Evansville and the region. The Reopen Evansville Task Force depended on this partnership to effectively serve our citizens.”

“While many pursue a merger or organizational realignment in response to challenges, we did so in recognition of, and in pursuit of, heightened opportunity,” said Tara Barney, President and CEO of the Chamber. “The new partnership is a proactive alignment of complementary efforts to unify as one voice to deliver economic development services for the region and to market our strengths to businesses and talent looking for a great location to operate a business, to live, and  to thrive.”

The group completed significant due diligence around finances, strategic integration of various programs, public policies, and technology along with a commitment to ensure that the new organization will address diversity, small business development and the unique value that the public and private sectors bring in delivering success throughout the Evansville region.

“We are very pleased that after months of document review, discussion and best-practice research–including study of similar regions seeking increased velocity–we have clear direction and authorization from our collective Boards to aggregate the work, the assets, the staffs, and the expertise of three very sound organizations into one,” stated Lynell Walton, Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville Board Chair.

The new partnership will operate within Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick Counties while continuing strategic partnerships with the entire MSA some of which is in Kentucky, the Southwest Indiana SBDC, area local Chambers, WorkOne and other entities that strengthen the region’s opportunity to prosper.

“Warrick County has been a strong regional voice and as one of the original partners in creation of the Coalition, we’re excited to take this next step in the formation of a new vision for Southwest Indiana,” said Dan Saylor, Warrick County Commissioner.

“The new organization gives Posey County an even stronger voice than we have had in the past,” Jenna Richardt, Executive Director of the Posey County Economic Partnership. “That collective voice along with the ability to invest in larger regional development strategies will add   
more value to Posey County businesses and residents.”

Though the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance for Greater  Evansville and Southwest Indiana Chamber will combine business operations during the coming  year, details of a new brand and name will be released by early April 2021. During the transition, the executives of the Coalition and the Southwest Indiana Chamber, Greg Wathen and Tara Barney have agreed to serve as co-CEOs. An early order of business for the new group will be the selection of executive leadership as well as the appointment of the new entity’s first Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

A temporary landing page for the new economic partnership has been created: evansvilleregion.com.