In 2013 while attending the National Brownfields Convention, staff learned of a Planning Grant offered from the Department of Commerce called the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” (IMCP). The staff realized quickly that this planning grant was badly needed for East Central Indiana to help reposition the communities after the devastating loss of more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs from the plant closers of Delco-Remy, Guide Lamp, Borg Warner, Chevrolet Muncie, Delco Battery, Chrysler Corporation, Firestone, Indiana Steel & Wire and dozens of other manufacturers in the region.
The Department of Commerce advised that if our region was to be competitive for their grant we would have to build a strategic regional coalition to partner on the project. ECIRPD set out to do just that and in the Fall of 2013, the Mayors of Anderson, Muncie and New Castle came together to form a three-city partnership that would undertake applying for the regional IMCP Planning Grant. Each of the Mayors pledged a local match $50,000 towards the effort and the grant request to the Department of Commerce was for an additional $150,000.
The grant was awarded in the Fall of 2013, and was the only IMCP grant awarded in Indiana. ECIRPD contracted with Vandewalle & Associates from Madison, Wisconsin to begin work on a regional strategic plan designed to attract manufacturing jobs back to East Central Indiana. Over the summer, multiple committees met and interviews were conducted with twenty-eight organizations. The outcome of these efforts was that several regional problems were identified and creative solutions to the problems surfaced. As a result of these efforts came the Anderson, Muncie, New Castle Economic Vision and Manufacturing Strategic Plan.
The stated goal that developed from the plan is to “Collaborate to develop a regional economic vision and manufacturing strategy that leverages key assets.” The Strategic Plan positions the tri-city region to achieve the federal “Manufacturing Community” designation through the IMCP in order to more successfully compete for targeted funding from at least eleven federal agencies.
The cities of Anderson, Muncie, and New Castle Indiana grew and flourished through the hard work of people who built transmissions, shaped metal and glass, and made tools—and the companies that invested here. The region’s legacy of “making things” produced a base of talent who can build high quality products and solve mechanical, operational, and process challenges.
This region has been hugely shaped by the rise and decline of the auto industry. Such is the nature of a company town: exposure to the extremes of economic boom and bust, and lack of resiliency in the face of decline.
Anderson alone has lost more than 27,000 General Motors Corporation jobs of skilled laborers, engineers, and technical workers with a significant experience in a range of manufacturing technologies. One of the earliest centers of GM employment dating back to the turn of the century, not a single company plant remains in the city today.
Muncie lost Borg Warner Automotive and its 3,000 workers in 2006. Soon to follow was the loss of 2,500 jobs at New Venture Gear. These and other jobs losses caused the city’s employed workforce to shrink by over 17% in only a decade.
New Castle has suffered severe job losses from auto industry restructuring, losing over 4,000 jobs from closure of Chrysler facilities over the past two decades.
With these loss of jobs has come aging infrastructure and housing, high poverty and crime rates, and a loss of tax base for reinvestment.
Alone, these cities may only be able to chip away at these challenges, but together—spanning a region of nearly 300,000 people—they can pool resources, share ideas, and align goals to have a much greater impact.
Anderson, Muncie, and New Castle have each made strides to support investment to reposition the economy. However, these efforts have not always been well connected or focused on a longer-term vision. This Economic Vision and Manufacturing Strategic Plan is bringing these three cities together to advance a Key Goal: Collaborate to develop a regional economic vision and manufacturing strategy that leverages key assets.
Economic Vision and Manufacturing Strategic Plan Summary
This plan is focused on Five Project Objectives:
- Focus investment and effort on catalytic projects
- Position the Region for State and Federal investment
- Align individual efforts around a vision that helps fuel pride, energy, and return on investment
- Enhance Region building and collaboration for efficiency
- Reposition the Region in the future marketplace
In order to identify Strategic Investments in three focus areas
- Retool the education and workforce pathway system
- Improve “place” and housing
- Position in emerging growth economies
If successfully executed, this Strategic Plan should serve as a key milestone for a long-term regional collaboration.
Key outcomes from this process include:
- A clear focus on education and workforce: brings together a variety of partners committed to working together to retool the education and workforce pathway system through further strategic planning and focus on catalyst projects including the Flagship-Purdue Innovation Hub and Muncie Manufacturing Pathways Facility.
- Catalyst projects to reinvest in cities: identifies key projects in each of the three cities that offer the potential to spark additional reinvestment including investments in downtowns, neighborhoods, employment centers, infrastructure, and brownfield redevelopment sites.
- Innovation Ecosystem: offers a vision of a regional innovation ecosystem that leverages the region’s assets in engineering design, talent, and access to capital from the nearby Indy metro-area.
- Power transfer and electrification center of excellence: focuses on this economic cluster opportunity that positions the region in the global economy.
- Regional greenspace/water trail network: illustrates an opportunity to build the regional greenspace/water trail network system and uncovered excitement by regional stakeholders for further planning and fund recruitment.
Tools to Support Implementation
- Economic vision and strategic framework: articulates a vision and seven Strategic Directions for regional partners to focus collaborative and individual efforts on.
- Region building: brought together over 100 people from a diverse array of organizations who can support plan implementation.
- Implementation Approach-A Regional Council: identifies a public-private partnership approach to push implementation of the Plan and leverage resources and capacities to maximize impact.
- Funding targets: identifies programs from eleven federal agencies that the region should specifically target to fund elements of this Plan.
- Messaging: developed messaging and communications tools that project stakeholders can use to communicate about the plan and status of implementation activities.