Local industry leaders unveiled a plan Wednesday to create a vision and action plan with the goal of improving the quality of life for area residents.

The initiative will be driven by a steering committee of about 25 community members. It is being funded by local industries and businesses.

The group has hired ACP Vision+Planning, a Columbus, Ohio-based consulting firm that focuses on strategic plans for communities.

The plan calls for the consultant to meet with members of the citizen committee to determine a vision for the county.

"We're clear about our role of conducting an inclusive and rigorous process and serving as a neutral convener," Jamie Greene, a principal with ACP Vision+Planning, said in a news release. "We are also clear that our collective efforts must lead to positive results and, ultimately, a more prosperous community."

The companies paying for the consultant are Arvin Sango, Century Tube, Grote Industries, Indiana Kentucky Electric, Koehler Welding Supply, Madison Chemical, Madison Precision Products, Royer Corp. and Vehicle Service Group. No public money is being used to pay for the consultant.

The need for an outside consultant was a chance to get a fresh prospective on the community, organizers said.

"We felt like we needed someone who could look at this with a different set of eyes," said Dan Baughman, vice president at Arvin Sango.

Gary Kennon, president of Vehicle Service Group, said other groups have been spending too much time developing what the structure of a local economic development group should look like and not enough time on what the vision should be.

The main goal of the consultant will be to provide a broad-based vision for the community. There will be several public forums scheduled at a later date to help guide the discussion and set the vision.

Five months ago, industry leaders wrote a letter to the community and said any vision to improve Jefferson County should focus on an educated and skilled workforce, a collaborative government and a good quality of life.

"These are the visions for what we want to try to accomplish for Madison," Baughman said. Other factors will be taken into consideration when developing the vision, Kennon said.

Since that letter was written, industry leaders have been meeting to discuss ways to boost economic development. Kennon said they received assistance and input from elected officials and community leaders.

The first issue is to set co-chairs for the organization, who then will work with the consultant to determine the members of the 25-member committee that will help guide the process. Baughman said that group should be in place by the end of the month, with meetings beginning in October.

Currently, members of the public are meeting with representatives of the City Council, County Council and town of Hanover during the Advanced Collaboration Team meetings to develop a plan for an interlocal agreement for the city and county to work on economic development. Kennon said it's too early to know how that group will fit into the picture.

"I'm not sure what their level of support is ... but I'm not saying those two won't eventually have a common thread," Kennon said.

Nominations will be accepted for members of the steering committee. To nominate a member for the steering committee, contact Nathan Hadley with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp. at (812) 265-4769.