(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Taking pride in its roots, but focusing on the future to secure a successful business climate and provide a high quality of life for residents has earned Bedford the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Community of the Year award.
Strengthened partnerships among the city, county and private sector paved the way for the community to focus on the high unemployment rate and higher-than-average obesity levels that were burdening the small city of 14,000 in south central Indiana.
With cooperation from city hall, the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council, the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, RADIUS Indiana, local businesses anad concerned citizens, they began tackling the problems from all angles, including:
- Updating the city's comprehensive plan (which hadn't been done in 25 years) and creating a strategic investment plan and a downtown revitalization plan
- Focusing on education and workforce development through the planned Stonegate Arts & Education Center and a new partnership with Ivy Tech Community College and Duke Energy to offer an advanced manufacturing program
- Plans to add a walking trail system, revitalize the downtown square through new building facades and updates, add an affordable senior housing complex and also use Indiana limestone and murals to distinguish the entrance to the city
- Diversifying and continuing to support growing industries, including health care and defense manufacturing
Bedford's progress was recognized by the state earlier this year, as it was chosen as a Stellar Community. The Stellar Communities program is under the direction of Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and is a multi-agency partnership among the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the State Revolving Fund. Only two Indiana communities are designated as such each year; Richmond was the other 2013 winner. The award brings $19 million in state, local and private funds to Bedford for planned improvements.
The former Visteon plant (which closed early in the recession) was purchased by a local businessman and converted into East Gate Business and Technology Center for high tech and industrial companies, with an emphasis on defense contractors.
Additionally, GM Powertrain Bedford has expanded to over 600 employees and its parent company has recently invested $221 million in new tooling and equipment to make new parts for GM transmissions.
"A community that adapts to changing industries and citizen needs is one that will succeed," states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. "To see Bedford thrive and capitalize on partnerships at all levels to support its businesses and residents is heartening. The community sets a wonderful example for the rest of the state, and quite frankly, the country."
The 2013 Community of the Year award will be presented to Mayor Shawna Girgis during the Indiana Chamber's 24th Annual Awards Dinner on November 12 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. The 2013 Business Leader of the Year and Government Leader of the Year recipients will be announced at that time.
More than 1,200 business, political and community leaders are expected to attend. General Stan McChrystal will headline the event, which will feature a special tribute to Hoosiers in the armed services and recognition for Indiana business leaders and companies with ties to the military. Tables of 10 and individual tickets are available for the reception (5 p.m. EST) and dinner (6:30 p.m. EST). Reservations can be made at (800) 824-6885 or at www.indianachamber.com/specialevents.
Media interested in covering the event should contact Rebecca Patrick at (317) 264-6897.
Past Community of the Year recipients:
2010: Terre Haute
2001: Greater Lafayette
1999: Fort Wayne
1993: St. Joseph County
The Indiana Chamber partners with 15,000 members and investors -- representing 2.6 million Hoosiers -- to achieve the mission of "cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity."