For years, Southeast Indiana — with its triple-A bond rating, strong civic relationships and forthcoming port — has been seen as a gem in the Greater Cincinnati region and a gateway to the Midwest for expanding businesses.
Now, that vision is coming to life through One Dearborn, a public-private initiative that’s being hailed as a “one-stop shop” for local economic development and a powerful incentivizing message for REDI to deliver nationally and internationally.
Leading the One Dearborn charge is former county administrator Terri Randall, who left that position to focus solely on elevating the community development and local economic development initiative.
“At the heart of what we’re doing is straight-up passion,” said Randall. “Communities change, and new ideas and actions can make a huge difference. We now have a vision of what’s best for our community, and we’re taking ownership of that.”
Randall quickly set up shop at the southeast Indiana facility of Ivy Tech Community College and began mapping out a four-pillar action plan with a singular mission: To become one of the highest-quality and most sought-after counties in the Greater Cincinnati region.
Starting at home
John Browner, president of Sycamore Gas in Lawrenceburg, has been a linchpin in One Dearborn’s foremost goal: Gaining critical buy-in from local businesses.
“When I arrived in southeast Indiana 12 years ago, the local economic development initiative at the time had a lot of involvement, but not a lot of local businesses,” said Browner. “[Randall] and I began reaching out and asking people what a strong economic development organization should have. The answer was nonpartisan support from the private sector.”
The two began working to revive relationships in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, while tapping into state and regional programs to create a fertile climate for Dearborn’s existing businesses to grow.
Welcoming new faces
Next, the team began identifying a new narrative for southeast Indiana — one that paints an accurate picture of a safe, family-friendly community where people can enjoy a prosperous career close to home.
As it turned out, this was another story best told by the businesses already existing — and flourishing — in Dearborn.
“The private sector is the group that gets things done,” said Browner. “We’re always shamelessly looking to copy other successful organizations, and in that same way we’re studying the things that other economic development groups are doing to attract attention. We looked to organizations like REDI Cincinnati to learn how to get the political powers in Indianapolis to recognize southeast Indiana as the prominent gateway that it is.”
REDI president and CEO Johnna Reeder commended the team’s efforts, saying, “The work they are doing is vital not just to Dearborn County, but to the entire region. As the first point-of-contact for businesses looking to locate in Greater Cincinnati, we know they are looking at the region as a whole.”
One Dearborn is creating a regional asset and powerful addition to the portfolio of strong communities REDI Cincinnati shares with prospective businesses.
Tackling modern workforce challenges
In recent years, Dearborn faced the all-too-familiar challenges of millennial flight and limited talent pool resources. The One Dearborn team chose to face those issues head on, starting with a strategic home-base location.
“We moved into the Ivy Tech facility because they’re a huge education partner that can literally customize programs to suit workforce needs,” Randall said. “But also, housed here is Work One — the workforce engine in Indiana. Now, we have the opportunity to be right next to each other at an advanced manufacturing lab, right next to instructors who are teaching these programs. We’re excited about how that’s going to affect our workforce.”
A place to call home
One Dearborn’s fourth pillar — quality of place initiatives — may prove to be its strongest, with leaders in Lawrenceburg, Greendale and Aurora already adopting infrastructural and beautification projects in their communities.
Currently taking shape is a project that will bring landscaping, public art and a walking bridge to the Lawrenceburg entrance ramp off I-275 at U.S. Route 50.
With housing representing another major quality-of-place indicator, Randall says her group is also working on ensuring Dearborn offers the right mix to accommodate both existing residents and the anticipated influx.
“There’s a big to-do list, but we have a handle on it and everybody’s moving in the same direction,” she said. “We’re ready to make some major capital investments in these plans.”