WABASH COUNTY, IN – Today, the Leadership Committee of Imagine One 85—a countywide process to develop a comprehensive plan—announced encouraging news about the plan’s progress.
“We’ve moved from the development phase to the review phase,” said Keith Gillenwater, President & CEO at Grow Wabash County. “From here, we look forward to the broad adoption of the plan, and then to realizing the bold vision for the future of our county, its communities, and our residents. More than 1,000 residents have provided input—and it has been so crucial to the success of this work.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the Imagine One 85 planning process, initiative leaders and consultants have continued to move forward—fueled by the engagement and passion of the people of Wabash County.
After ‘Focus on the Future’ sessions—both in-person and virtual—throughout 2020 and early 2021, Imagine One 85 hosted the ‘Growth Summit’ at the Honeywell Center in downtown Wabash, IN on July 14, 2021. Residents from across the county heard inspiring stories from fellow residents and took the opportunity to contribute dozens of catalytic “Mighty Ideas” to enrich the plan’s development.
Key themes that emerged in public engagement sessions include:
Economic growth and prosperity—with a real appetite for an increase in sustainable, high-wage jobs, a skilled workforce, a thriving business climate, and a flourishing approach to talent attraction and retention
Increase in Quality of Life—including a focus on great places (rivers, greenspaces and trails, attractive neighborhoods and vibrant town centers), growth in arts and cultural amenities, and a commitment to invest in and embrace diversity of all kinds in our community
Housing—developing neighborhoods and communities, diverse market rate and affordable housing options, mixed-use development, and historical renovation
Infrastructure—including high-speed/fiber internet for all, upgraded utilities, and health and social support services
Excellence in Education— focusing on pre-K options through higher-ed that lead to greater educational attainment
Walking the talk—broadcasting our positive image, and continuing to coordinate and collaborate across communities, organizations and institutions
In its final form, the comprehensive plan will include important technical studies that illustrate the needs of the county and an action agenda for implementing the elements of the plan to bring about change.
Wabash County’s population decline over the last three decades vividly demonstrates how the county is being left behind by its regional neighbors. Indeed, Wabash County can be seen as a county in distress.
Imagine One 85 and its bold, comprehensive plan for the future seeks to arrest and reverse the population decline.
A coalition of leaders and community members from all sectors have joined in this countywide collaboration with a singular focus on the growth and prosperity of the entire county and the incorporated communities of La Fontaine, Lagro, North Manchester, Roann and Wabash.
“The urgent, shared commitment demonstrated by our entire community has been unprecedented and necessary,” said Patty Grant, Executive Director of Community Foundation of Wabash County. “We have made tremendous progress, and now is the time to go forth together! There can be no light between our shoulders.”
The Road Ahead
In the coming weeks, the draft plan will be reviewed by the Imagine One 85 Steering Committee, before being finalized for additional stakeholder review.
“The Imagine One 85 leadership committee acknowledges the work to get here was rigorous and the road ahead is long,” said Barry Eppley, commissioner, Wabash County. “But we, as a community, are confident and resolute in our determination to comprehensively plan for a future filled with great opportunities for each resident of Wabash County.”
Continue to follow along at ImagineOne85.org to learn more about the plan’s adoption.