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ROUNDTABLE: Region’s recession bounceback ballyhooed

February 23, 2013

Panel members speak at the Mayors roundtable held in Columbia City Friday. From left, Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County EDC, John R. Stafford, Director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, Bob Taylor, president and CEO of Do it Best Corp., Michael L. Kubacki, chairman and CEO of Lake City Bank and Michael J. Packnett, president and CEO of Parkview Health. Post & Mail photo / Brett Myers

COLUMBIA CITY — How does one become well-known?
This was one question discussed at a Mayors Roundtable held at Eagle’s Nest Friday. With the economy beginning to get back on track, the aspect and importance of regionalism was one topic on the table.

Discussion centered around the fact that southern California and other regions of the county have its own reputations for what it does well.
How does Northeast Indiana acquire the same reputation?
The recession is over and the region is on the move forward, even if the recovery is still in progress at the moment.

“The recovery will take time,” said John R. Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW. “We came out of the recession relatively strong and relatively fast, but we’re not back to where we were yet.”

Panel members were asked what would keep them in the area, which invoked the topic of regionalism.

Bob Taylor, president and CEO of Do it Best Corp., touted the diversity of living possibilities and work atmosphere.

“You can live on a lake or farm and have the work environment you want,” he said.

Michael J. Packnett, president and CEO of Parkview Health, said the people of Indiana make the area special.

“The people are amazing, and that is what keeps me here,” he said. “Indiana nice is real, it is not just an expression.”

A regional view is necessary in a world that, post-recession, has people thinking more about the global economy than ever before.

“People who invest still want to know about the debt crisis in Europe and what that will do,” said Michael J. Kubacki, president and CEO of Lake City Bank.

As the economy becomes more global, the marketplace turns more competitive. While Northeast Indiana has done well so far, the focus can never diminish.

“The pride of the region to keep moving forward is the secret sauce to success,” Stafford said. “The real challenge is to keep at it. It’s a competitive world. You can’t let your guard down for a minute.”

Alan C. Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation, helped facilitate the panel of experts. He asked a question for the audience, which consisted of many mayors from around the region, as to what a leader of a community could do to help and when should the mayor stay out of the way.

“Good leadership is key,” Kubacki said. “It is like the CEO of a company. The mayor has to keep the city in ship-shape and get rid of eye sores.”

On the other side, Stafford said mayors should trust professionals at times.

“There is a technical role to being an EDC director,” Stafford said. “Let that person do their job.”

The mind-set of most on the panel was the region of Northeast Indiana is coming together and doing well, post-recession. With a focus on regional viability, the best could be yet to come.

Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel closed the day by thanking everyone for coming despite the poor weather.

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