FORT WAYNE — The general public probably has little awareness of the Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) and Region III-A. And yet, the work of NIRCC and Region III-A surrounds everyone. From the roads we drive on, the trails we bike on, the air we breathe, and in some instances the broadband we access and community facilities we enjoy, these two organizations do the behind-the-scenes work to make northeast Indiana a livable region.
Rather, two separate livable regions. NIRCC does the work for DeKalb, Allen, Wells and Adams counties, while Region III-A plans for Steuben, LaGrange, Noble, Whitley, Huntington and Wabash counties.
Until now, the work of the two organizations has been divided but equal. The county lines marked borders between the two regional planning bodies. But over the course of the next month, the two organizations are implementing a collaborative merger — one single body, referred to as the Northeast Indiana Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee, to facilitate region-wide planning efforts in Northeast Indiana.
A priority goal of Vision 2020, a six-month visioning process staffed by the Northeast Indiana Fund, will be realized, as infrastructure planning will be strengthened and better coordinated across county lines throughout the 10-county region. This critical collaboration will also be a key activity in better positioning Northeast Indiana to leverage federal funds.
“NIRCC and Region III-A have both been doing similar work, but they each focus on only part of the region. Imagine how much more effective we can be if we combine resources and expertise to develop one plan for all of Northeast Indiana,” Mayor Norm Yoder, of Auburn, chair of NIRCC and member of the Vision 2020 Coordinating Group, said. “With energy from Vision 2020, this is the perfect time to use the momentum to start planning for a region, instead of a few counties.”
The need for a merger has been talked about for several years and was reinforced through conversations during the Vision 2020 process.
This visioning process focused on five key areas, known as pillars: 21st Century Talent, Competitive Business Climate, Entrepreneurship, Infrastructure and Quality of Life.
At the Regional Economic Summit June 23, which invited the public to vote on specific strategies they felt were most important to the future of Northeast Indiana, a majority voted to: “Develop a regional plan that addresses infrastructure, sustainability, land use and the optimal location of regional-scale industrial sites,” as a top priority within the Infrastructure pillar.
“Clearly, a regional plan is something people think will benefit Northeast Indiana,” Jac Price, chair of the Board of Directors for Region III-A and member of a Vision 2020 topical group, said. “Our goal is to submit a CEDS document to the Economic Development Administration on March 31, 2011 that reflects a truly regional, long-term transportation and infrastructure plan for all of Northeast Indiana. We’ll bring together public and private sector representatives from our 10-county region to identify and prioritize the projects of regional significance.”
NIRCC serves as the primary transportation planning organization for the metropolitan area and both NIRCC and Region III-A serve as rural transportation planning organizations for the Federal Highway Administration. Region III-A is designated as an economic development district by U.S. Economic Development Administration. These planning functions and the designation help leverage federal funds for transportation, environmental and economic development projects in the region.
To learn more about NIRCC, visit http://www.nircc.com . For more information about Region III-A, visit http://www.region3a.org/ . To get involved with Vision 2020, e-mail email@example.com  or visit www.NortheastIndianaVision.com .