Even nonprofits make wish lists this time of year.
The Regional Opportunities Council last week established its 2013 priorities – all aimed at increasing northeast Indiana’s per capital income level, which in 2009 was 79.5 percent of the national average. The council oversees Vision 2020, a regional initiative funded by foundation grants. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership created Vision 2020 three years ago to address the earnings gap.
The Regional Opportunities Council’s leaders have said they want to bring meaningful and powerful change to the 10-county region. The best chance of success, they’ve said, is by creating a long-term partnership of public, private and corporate groups to tackle identified issues.
Next year’s priorities are:
Increasing the proportion of residents with at least two years of education or specialized training after high school graduation to 60 percent by 2025 from 31.5 percent today
Expanding Internet access to the entire region
Focusing on regional interstate highway accessibility
Streamlining the processes for securing building permits and zoning changes
Developing downtown Fort Wayne along the riverfronts
Working groups meet every three to six weeks to advance efforts in the individual areas, said Katy Silliman, Vision 2020 director.
The education goal, for example, has been divided into four areas: early childhood learning, kindergarten through eighth grade, high school and post-secondary education. The group hopes to release within six months a regional report card that shows how northeast Indiana is doing in those four areas.
It’s hard to know what we need to fix if we don’t know where we’re starting, Silliman said.
Measurements could include kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading scores, eighth-grade math, science and English scores, high school graduation rates and college or vocational program graduation rates.
The group addressing the permitting issue is first trying to understand the process for issuing nonresidential permits in cities and counties across the region. The committee, which includes people who issue permits in various areas, will look for ways to improve the process. That could include a regional website with contact information, requirements and timeframes for each city and county, Silliman said.
The goal isn’t to force everyone to adopt the same process.
That would be the fastest way to fail, she said.