Wanted: Community involvement

Article by Matt Getts of KPC Media

Albion Chamber’s Impact meeting highlights need for collaboration

ALBION — Adequate housing and community involvement were the big topics of conversation at the recent Albion Chamber of Commerce Impact meeting held at The Arc Noble County Foundations.

Community and business leaders gathered to discuss ways to improve Albion and help the local business climate.

A large emphasis was placed on the Hometown Collaboration Initiative’s survey that is currently available at the Noble County Public Library’s Central branch and through the town’s website, albion-in.org.

“We want to hear from you,” Town Manager Stefen Wynn said. “This is a different way for building plans.”

“We’re learning a little bit about what our strengths and weaknesses are,” S.T.A.R. Team member Steve Hook said. “That’s a good thing.”

Hook discussed three quality-of-life issues the S.T.A.R. Team is working on currently through a grant it has received:

• Installation of bicycle racks. The racks were originally slated to be installed on the Noble County Courthouse square, but the team now is leaning toward Hidden Diamonds Park, Hook said.

• Installation of wayfinding signs, meant to direct visitors to different attractions within the town.

• Placement of a life-sized chess and checker board. Hidden Diamonds is a possible location for this project, Hook said.

What the S.T.A.R. Team does next is dependent on the kind of community input that the Hometown Collaboration Initiative should glean.

“We really do need more partnerships,” Hook said. “It would help to have more business support to know what our direction should be.”

Wynn said the collaboration effort extends to everyone within Central Noble Community School Corp. “Our entire scope just isn’t Albion, but the surrounding area.”

For the area to get the kind of growth it is looking for, it needs not only more workers, but a place for those workers to rest their heads at night.

“We have nowhere for them to live,” Noble County Public Library Executive Director Sandy Petrie said. “How do we tackle that? That might be our biggest issue.”

The area needs housing and job opportunities to avoid the brain drain.

“We’re losing all of our kids — and they’re not coming back,” Petrie said.

Noble County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sheryl Prentice said the area needs to capitalize on its most valuable resource: Chain O’ Lakes State Park.

Park manager Sam Boggs said the park gets more than 300,000 visitors annually.

“They’re the gateway to get people into the community,” Prentice said.

And that gateway is going great. Boggs said his park hadrecord revenue in 2016, and so far this year, the park is 16 percent ahead of that pace.

Boggs said the Indiana Trail 100, a popular event that draws 400 endurance athletes per year, is going through some changes. For one, the race name has been changed to Ignite and will be held in the middle of October 2018. This year, a 40-mile warm-up event will be put on by the same group on April 28.

Kay Craig, The Arc Noble County Foundations executive director, said her organization served 44 people 3 1/2 years ago Today, that number is more than 100. The organization that serves people with disabilities has also opened up a second location in LaOtto.

“All of that is possible because Noble County is a giving, thriving place to be,” Craig said. “I need connections and partnerships to make us strong.”