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lp county united in planning future

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 16:54 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

All of LaPorte County is banding together to develop quality of life strategies for enticing more young professionals and visitors to come here.

More than 30 community leaders from as far away as LaCrosse assembled Tuesday to further a grassroots movement that began last year when a steering committee made up of members countywide was formed and assigned the task of creating a better future.

''We have so many natural assets here and we have so much human capital to pour into really moving from good to great,'' said State Representative Scott Pelath (D) Michigan City.

Jamie Greene of Planning Next based in Columbus, Ohio shared what his company has done to help places like Valparaiso, Elkhart and Ft. Wayne develop strategic plans during a close to two-hour presentation at the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau in Michigan City.

He said the next step for LaPorte County is to form a new action committee that could have as many as 50 members from all parts of the county and secure revenue for achieving goals aimed at making LaPorte County a better place to live, work and raise a family.

''That let's the work unfold,'' said Greene.

Leigh Morris, a former LaPorte mayor and steering committee member, said local corporations have been approached to contribute money he believes will be forthcoming.

Securing grant dollars is also part of the financial mix.

''We have so much that is good and we have so many great opportunities but for whatever reason maybe we're not moving forward as aggressively as we might. The plan I believe is the missing ingredient,'' said Morris.

Morris said he doesn't feel invisible walls that keep communities separated and competing against each other will be much of an obstacle with LaPorte and Michigan City having come together more than a decade ago.

He also pointed to southern LaPorte County and its recently formed an action group aimed at moving smaller communities like LaCrosse, Wanatah and Westville into the future more effectively.

Morris said input and involvement of people from all areas including the business sector, schools and not-for-profit organizations will be sought to develop the countywide plan hopefully within a year.

Strategies could involve anything from attracting more good paying jobs, enhancing growth of local tourism and expanding recreational opportunities, said Jack Arnett, the LCCVB's executive director who's leading the charge.

''All of that fits into quality of place,'' said Arnett.

Maggie Spartz, executive director of the Unity Foundation of LaPorte County, hopes to engage as many people as possible from each community into sharing their wants and visions for the future.

After the overall plan is developed, communities will be free to implement any portion of the plan that fits best for their respective areas.

''If you don't have a vision for where you want to go, who knows where you're going to end up,'' she said.
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