Intern Presents Research Supporting West Central Indiana Branding Initiative

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A culmination of seven months of intensive research, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College graduate Anna Madden presented her RJL Solutions internship project this week. Madden’s research was limited to West Central Indiana – the 6-county region including Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo Counties – and focused on the perception, needs, challenges, and opportunities of college students/graduates, business owners, and citizens of the region.

The need for this type of research was determined through a series of meaningful conversations among local and state leaders about the importance of regionalism. Madden’s presentation summarized the findings of several formal surveys and focus groups, and those in attendance included representatives from multiple counties in the region.

“When I have conversations at the Statehouse, we aren’t referred to as just Terre Haute anymore. We are West Central Indiana,” states Rachel Leslie, partner at RJL Solutions. “More and more in these conversations, the importance of regionalism is emphasized in order for us to be competitive with other regions of the state. This presents an opportunity for the counties in our region to start collaborating instead of competing with one another. When one is successful, all are successful.”

According to the results of over 400 survey responses, the top three things that respondents like about West Central Indiana include cost of living, commute time, and local businesses. Additionally, 84.43% of respondents expressed the desire for West Central Indiana to promote a better image of the region. Conversations from five separate focus groups further stressed the need for an emphasis on collaboration among the counties, relationship-building, and a regional brand focus. It was also determined that there needs to be education internally in the region on what exactly West Central Indiana means, geographically and in terms of its assets.

“We need to learn who we are so that we can tell our own story instead of letting others tell it for us,” states Madden, who graduated with a degree in marketing and was immediately hired as Brand Ambassador at RJL Solutions. “If we know who we are, we can start to communicate that to those outside of West Central Indiana.”

Madden’s research, of which the final product is a 74-page report, provides a platform to build upon as the discussion of regionalism transforms into action items. The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce recently announced its West Central 2025 initiative, and Madden will be turning the research over to that group and county leaders so that they may use it to move forward in their mission to advance the region together.

“The goal of West Central 2025 is to create exactly what Anna has outlined here today, an excitement, energy and enthusiasm within communities and individuals from throughout our region. As was clearly demonstrated by her research, the need exists,” states David Haynes, President of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

West Central 2025 additionally announced at the end of Madden’s presentation that they will be hosting those interested in this regional branding initiative October 4 at 10 a.m. at Ivy Tech Community College. To register, visit www.terrehautechamber.com. For more information, call (812) 232-2391 or contact Kristin Craig, kcraig@terrehautechamber.com.

Betsy Peperak