By LARRY PEJEAU, guest columnist
Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded $42 million in December, funding three new organizations in the southwest central (SWC) Indiana region.
These grants will support regional development initiatives in an 11-county area that encompasses Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.
The important words in that last sentence were “Brown” and “regional development.”
Brown County’s level of benefit from this grant will be directly related to our ability to work regionally.
Brown County citizens have been participating in the research and planning phase of this effort for almost two years. As usual, with any funding offered by Lilly Endowment Inc., community foundations were expected to play the lead role in convening subject matter experts from their counties to participate in conversations with the lead researchers, Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.
Together, the participants worked to gather a clear vision of existing assets and challenges in the region.
I want to thank the many Brown County educators, business owners, political leaders and citizen experts who were willing to share their time, expertise and wisdom with the good folks from Battelle. Their willingness to participate in this process with such vigor visibly demonstrated this county’s willingness to collaborate.
The regional research and the entire strategic plan can be found at radiusindiana.com/strategic-plan.
SWC Indiana is 11 mostly rural counties, 4,499 square miles, with 48 cities and towns, only two with populations of more than 10,000 people. The available assets and the challenges have been very clearly defined in the strategic plan.
The strategy to grow a more inclusive regional economy is still a dream — however, a dream with substantial research data and funding to drive the process.
Regional opportunities to collaborate, to develop a regional brand and to coordinate more unified processes to promote and attract new business will be potential opportunities to engage.
I encourage the citizens, business owners and government entities of Brown County to be as big a part of this dream as possible.
If an opportunity to participate in this effort arises, perhaps to be part of a regional panel, to be on a committee or a board of directors, please don’t hesitate to show your willingness to embrace change in a regional and collaborative manner.
It is far more fun to be a player than a spectator.
Larry Pejeau is CEO of the Brown County Community Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-988-4882.