Community Foundation Participates In Economic Inclusion Initiative

The Warsaw Community was chosen by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to be one of three small Indiana cities to participate in a Community Centered Economic Inclusion (CCEI) initiative led by the Brookings Institution and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

CCEI was designed to help communities develop an action plan that can be implemented over a 3-year period with a focus on investments into disadvantaged communities and very specific geographic areas (not an entire city) that need further resources and opportunities in order to thrive. The Winona Avenue corridor, the adjacent east/west streets that link those areas, and downtown Warsaw were identified for this initiative.

Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) served as the lead partner for the CCEI initiative locally.  Kosciusko County Community Foundation hosted the meetings of CCEI’s 33-member advisory coalition over a six-month period earlier this year. The advisory coalition reviewed data and opinions from area employers, residents, Latino faith and business leaders, entrepreneurs, utility providers, the arts/culture community, public and college education, city government, and the nonprofit/philanthropic community. Focus groups were gathered, interviews were conducted, and meetings were held to develop an action plan that would stimulate investment and economic growth in the areas identified.

As a result of the initiative, several themes emerged, including the need to:

  • Strengthen civic connections (neighborhood groups, new resident engagement, breaking down barriers between English and non-English language speakers),
  • Develop additional workforce housing options,
  • Create more connections to people and places – more public access to lakes, sidewalks, bike lanes, transportation options,
  • Develop key properties to meet housing, recreation, and entrepreneurial needs, and
  • Shore up the downtown to support the economic, cultural, and social needs of residents.

The action plan names specific activities to be accomplished and suggests which organizations would be best to lead and participate in the activities outlined. The Community Foundation is named under housing initiatives, which is in line with the Foundation’s most recently adopted strategic plan, which identified access to housing as a priority need to be addressed.

“What was most exciting to me about this initiative was the very purposeful effort to engage residents and business owners as part of the advisory coalition or as part of a focus group or interview who have not historically been heard from regarding what they want for their own community,” said Community Foundation CEO, Stephanie Overbey. “I’m excited to have been part of an effort that engaged those who will be most affected by the action plan in the creation of the plan.”

Possible funding sources for implementation of the action plan may include the next round of the State’s READI funding in addition to grant funding and investment from the public and private sectors.

View the full CCEI agenda/action plan below.