East Central Indiana Awarded 21st Century Talent Region Designation

Indiana Secretary of Career Connections and Talent Blair Milo virtually joined state and local officials on January 22, 2021 to announce the East Central Indiana Region as Indiana’s tenth 21st Century Talent Region, a statewide designation awarded to Indiana communities focused on working collaboratively to attract, develop and connect talent. The Talent Region currently includes Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Randolph, Rush and Wayne Counties.

“Over 70 individuals across the East Central Indiana Region have dedicated their focus to establishing East Central Indiana as a place where people want to live, work, play and stay,” said Secretary Milo. “Through the outstanding collaboration of these leaders and the Forge Your Path initiative, East Central Indiana is growing access to lifelong learning and opportunity for all current and future Hoosiers.”

The Office of Career Connections and Talent, with support from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and technical assistance from CivicLab, launched the 21st Century Talent Region initiative to encourage local governments, businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, and economic and workforce development partners to create and implement plans to increase educational attainment, raise household income and grow the population in a region. By taking a comprehensive, systems approach, participating regions will identify strategic priorities and projects aimed at helping its communities create a better quality of place, develop and skill up its workforce, and connect talented Hoosiers with businesses seeking to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs.

“The common goal of the 21st Century Talent Region designation has catalyzed new relationships and collaborative planning across counties that are essential for East Central Indiana’s future,” said Tom Kinghorn, President and CEO of the George and Frances Ball Foundation. “Together, we have set our sights high, aiming to leverage our quality of place assets to boost current population trends by 11% by 2030, mobilize our learning system to increase postsecondary educational attainment of more than 9,000 Hoosiers by 2025, and build upon equitable economic opportunities to increase median household income and earnings by 7.5% by 2025.”

During the event, Secretary Milo and Indiana Destination Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Elaine Bedel presented Kinghorn, and Geoffrey S. Mearns, President of Ball State University, with the official 21st Century Talent Region designation.

“This new designation builds upon our University’s strategic efforts to serve the evolving needs of our adult learners, our communities, and our state in new and innovative ways,” said President Mearns. “We look forward to helping drive the success of our region’s efforts to enhance the impact of higher education and to bridge the critical gap between education and employment in East Central Indiana.”

Spearheaded by the George and Frances Ball Foundation with support from Ball State University’s Office of Community Engagement, key stakeholders from the seven counties worked together to identify four key priorities:

  • Increasing integration of East Central Indiana’s Forge Your Path lifestyle marketing initiative across stakeholder marketing and talent attraction efforts by December 2021;
  • Establishing regional coalitions to develop plans to increase achievement in early childhood, K-8, high school, and adult/higher education by December 2021;
  • Laying the groundwork for industry-specific networks to participate in regional implementation plans and develop talent pipelines in manufacturing, trades, education, healthcare, and technology by early 2022, and;
  • Defining and prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all talent attraction, development, and connection efforts through and beyond 2022.

The East Central Indiana Talent Collaborative, a new backbone organization anchored by Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement, will oversee regional progress in these priority areas.

“I applaud the East Central Indiana Region and their initiatives,” said Secretary Bedel. “Their collaborative mission supports the statewide mission of the IDDC, which is to promote, brand and tell Indiana’s authentic story to attract and retain talent, students and business as well as visitors. The IDDC looks forward to supporting and amplifying the great work of the East Central Region.”

Currently, 81 Indiana counties are actively engaged in regional planning through the 21st Century Talent Region initiative. The addition of East Central Indiana brings designations to 58 of Indiana’s 92 counties, covering a population of nearly 4 million Hoosiers. Previously designated 21st Century Talent Regions include Northwest Indiana, West Central Indiana, Eastside Economic Recovery and Mobility District, South Bend-Elkhart, Hamilton County, Indiana Uplands, EcO Network of Southeast Indiana, Northeast Indiana and Southwest Indiana.