Long-time committee members, as well as some new faces, met on March 2 to propel the HCI effort forward. The next step is to choose a Capstone Project that can sustain itself and make an impact on our community. Michael Wilcox, assistant program leader for economic and community development with Purdue Extension, led the team in a four-part process to assist them in choosing a community project. The steps included:
1. Review – the team recapped everything that happened to this point. Two salient concerns are that 75 % of Indiana’s jobs are in metropolitan Indiana and that Vermillion County is experiencing flat-lined employment and wages.
2. Asset Mapping – the team collaborated and revisited Vermillion County’s assets; financial, political, social, human, cultural, natural and built. They were able to double the number of assets listed in a previous meeting.
3. Structure, Function and Process – the team evaluated our entrepreneurial ecosystem, taking a regional approach to recognize assets without discounting local assets. Assets identified in step two were divided into categories – supportive environment, entrepreneur networks, training and technical assistance, access to capital and youth entrepreneurship.
4. Next Steps – Do we what have it takes to support?
Our Capstone Project can result in anything from a networking (sharing information – low interdependence and low risk) to a coalition (sharing systems of support – high interdependence and high risk). Ultimately, the project should:
- Build on assets of Vermillion County and surrounding counties,
- Engage and create energies in our community,
- Reflect interest, dreams and concerns of all our community members, and
- Establish basis for making critical public choices.
Some initial ideas were:
- Creating a supportive environment – more collaboration and less turfism
- Establishing an entrepreneur network – pathway for current and new employers to do business; no wrong door policy
- Utilizing Ivy Tech, ISBDC, YEP and others for training and technical assistance
- LEDO revolving loan program to create access to capital where appropriate
- Support youth entrepreneurship efforts through YEP, FFA, WRCTE and PRIDE
The seed funds from OCRA, combined with the 1:1 community match establishes seed funding of $10,000 that can be utilized for the HCI Capstone Project. Other communities have also pursued grants, government funding and other sources of investment for the Capstone Project.
During our next meeting, we will strive to write a proposal to convey the value of our project. Those present were asked to evaluate, ‘What we currently have in place and what we need to be successful?’ How those two things tie together into a vision and expected outcomes for our capstone project, prior to the next meeting.
The committee is being challenged to galvanize interest throughout Main Street organizations, appointed political officials and business owners to generate ideas and support for the project. We are better together than we are apart!