“Indiana doesn’t have a single economy. It has a bunch of regional economies. We 
encourage regions to act in concert.” - David Lips, director of policy for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
“Indiana doesn’t have a single economy. It has a bunch of regional economies. We encourage regions to act in concert.” - David Lips, director of policy for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Area civic and business leaders listened to speakers and discussed ideas for economic development Wednesday as the Indiana Humanities Council held its Southeast Regional Forum at Hanover College.

One of 15 forums being held throughout the state, the event included Jefferson, Jennings, Decatur, Ripley, Franklin, Dearborn, Switzerland and Ohio counties.

Dr. Sue DeWine, president of Hanover College, offered welcoming remarks on behalf of the school.

"I came with an idea," she said.

The newly appointed president, who began her duties on July 1, said she is looking forward to working with both the college and community. One program she would like to see implemented would link foreign students with local families to serve as mentors.

"I am thrilled with the diversity on this campus and think it's a marvelous opportunity to learn about different cultures," DeWine said.

David Lips, director of policy for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, gave the keynote presentation, focusing on bringing business to Indiana and helping companies grow though regional collaboration.

"Indiana doesn't have a single economy," Lips said. "It has a bunch of regional economies. We encourage regions to act in concert."

A question and answer session followed Lips' presentation. The main topic of discussion was education, with one audience member asking if there would be enough jobs in the state for an expected surge in high school graduates.

"One of the main drives of economic development is the status of the workforce," Lips said, noting that there is a demand for educated workers. "Indiana is well known for its work ethic and needs a knowledgeable workforce to stay competitive."

Scott Sanders, chief financial officer for the Department of Workforce Development, gave a presentation on what individuals need to be successful in the workforce.

"Your economy is stronger than some parts of the state," he said, citing education and health services as areas of local growth. "There is a strong local leadership presence from this region in terms of economic development."

Critical thinking skills in science, math and reading comprehension need to be improved throughout the state, he said.

"It's important that we continue to educate the workforce," Sanders said.

Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel discussed the success of his city's "regional mindset."

Working with surrounding counties and a push toward public and private sector collaboration has allowed southwestern Indiana to become a driving force economically, he said.

"We can now sell southwestern Indiana as a region rather than just one city," Weinzapfel said. "Timing is everything and its the people you have involved."

An open forum followed the presentations, with audience members voicing concerns and offering suggestions for regional development.

"It's important to take some degree of inspiration and responsibility to move these ideas forward," said Andrew Lee, director of leadership for the Indiana Humanities Council. "I challenge you to move in the direction of your own conversations."