Elkhart County, IN 
Vision and Action Plan

Elkhart County, Indiana is best known as the RV production capital of North America. That became a dubious title in 2008 when the national economy began to tumble. The next year, newly elected President Obama chose Elkhart (with its nation-leading 15% unemployment rate) as the location to launch the stimulus program. Since then, the area has begun to recover along with the country, but community leaders learned a valuable lesson. The area’s economy must become more diverse.

Thankfully, they had help. In 2011 the Community Foundation was surprised with a $113 million bequest, which increased their annual giving responsibility tenfold. The Foundation committed a third of its giving to “Quality of Place” initiatives, projects which will make the communities of Elkhart County more competitive as destinations for talented individuals.  In a partnership with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Foundation hired Planning NEXT to lead an Action Agenda process to identify projects, policies or programs to fund.

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A robust engagement program

A robust engagement program was designed in collaboration with a 36-member steering committee representing interests throughout the county. They helped to execute a word-of-mouth outreach effort to support the publicity campaign to raise awareness and engage the community.

Process

The Action Agenda will emerge through a series of community conversations and targeted focus groups. The process Kickoff Event held in the City of Elkhart in late January, 2016, brought more than 650 people together who pledged to stay involved and help craft the final agenda.

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Goshen High School Senior, José Chiquito, thanks Kickoff Event participants on behalf of his generation.

Over 650 people seated in small groups discussed ways to improve their communities at the Kickoff Event.


client praise

“Thank you so much for a very successful event last Tuesday. All I can say is ‘WOW!’ Everyone is buzzing about the energy, ideas and excited about the next step. This was a HOME RUN! That’s the term I’ve heard over and over.”

Diana Lawson, Steering Committee Co-Chair
January 26, 2016

Tags

Project Type: vision and action plan
Community Type: county
Client: Elkhart County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Community Foundation of Elkhart County
Services: public engagement, social media and online engagement, visioning, strategic planning