Indiana State University Newsroom

Leadership Alliance building collaboration for West Central Indiana

December 5, 2014

Community leaders throughout West Central Indiana have come together to provide for a more culturally diverse and engaged citizenry for the region.

The West Central Indiana Leadership Alliance examines workforce skills and economic interests for the area to develop strategies focusing on long-range development, use and maximization of regional assets.

In the spring of 2012 a group of community leaders began discussing the need to accelerate job creation and community and economic development in Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.

The group recognized that the area lacked the strong collaboration needed to be competitive in today's global market place and created the West Central Indiana Leadership Alliance. Its goal is to increase awareness and understanding of ongoing economic factors within the region, identify opportunities to affect positive change and to mobilize and leverage resources to launch initiatives to sustain long-term growth and prosperity, said Steven Pontius, director of Indiana State University's Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute and facilitator for the creation of the alliance.

"The Alliance is an informal network of existing organizations to create a shared narrative, build consensus, and lead change within the six counties of West Central Indiana," Pontius said. "With community leaders from both the private and public sectors, the Alliance collaborates across city and county lines to overcome barriers to maximize economic and social benefits for citizens of all ages, creeds and colors living in West Central Indiana."

A regional approach to problem solving requires cooperation and collaboration among a large group of people to address the changing needs of the individual communities that make up the Region, Pontius said. A feeling of trust and willingness to compromise for the greater good is not achieved overnight as leaders must first get to know each other and then talk openly about their collective and individual issues, he noted.

Throughout 2012 and 2013, the group met to formulate strategies and to begin implementation. In 2014, members met quarterly to review progress.

"As an informal group, we had no authority to demand action from any one partner or funding to pay for an activity," Pontius said, "but what we had was a sense of responsibility and partners who had the capacity stepped up to take action."

High on the priority list for a Leadership Alliance was the crafting of leadership pipeline for the region. With a highly acclaimed Master of Leadership Development program, the Alliance asked Saint Mary-of the-Woods College to take the lead. In partnership with two other Alliance partners, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce and Duke Energy, the Wabash Valley Leadership Institute held its first class in November 2014 with applications now available for the April 2015 class.

Often a barrier to networking and formulating a region-wide strategic plan is the distance between the rural communities and the time it takes to attend a regional meeting especially when you factor in travel time, Pontiuis said. To help improve communications, Alliance partner the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and its affiliates the Clay County Community Foundation and Vigo County Community Foundation answered the call for a solution with funding for the development of a website.

Recently launched, the West Central Indiana Leadership Alliance website details the genesis of the Alliance and provides the overall strategy for the group. The website includes a listing of partners currently engaged with activities of the Alliance and invites other prospective partners to contact the Alliance to learn more about how they might participate. Future enhancements to the site include an expanded calendar of events and notes and briefings on meetings to keep members informed.

The West Central Indiana Leadership Alliance website can be accessed at

About the Rural Urban-Entrepreneurship Development Institute: Launched in January, 2012, the Rural-Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute is an initiative of Indiana State University's Strategic Plan and its Unbound Possibilities program. As part of Indiana State's commitment to strengthen economic development in Indiana's rural counties, RUEDI was created to serve as an engagement, research and learning platform to improve the economic stability of rural areas and small towns through collaboration with local government officials, other educational institutions and business enterprises.

Contact: Steven Pontius, professor, department of earth and environmental systems and director, Rural Urban Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Indiana State University, 812-237-4386, or