Horizon Project 2.0 logoCommunity leaders in the nation’s “RV Capital” in Northern Indiana are convening a day-long conference next week to find new ways to strengthen Elkhart County’s economy and address an unspoken goal: to make it less reliant on the RV industry.

Local “movers and shakers”  will gather on Nov. 11 in Goshen, Ind., for the inaugural kickoff of HORIZON 2.0. This workshop and networking event will feature innovative national, state and local leaders who have transformed their communities and invite workshop participants to respond with insights on reshaping the educational and entrepreneurial future of Elkhart County, according to a news release.

“We stand at the forefront of a historic transformation of our economic and social landscape,” said Bill Johnson, chairman of the Horizon Project from 2002-2006. “We’re using the HORIZON 2.0 workshop to take a fresh look at our strengths and hear stories from innovative leaders. We’ll use that information to chart a sustainable, creative course for our future.”

Elkhart County was one of four Indiana communities selected to host workshops on issues vital to their communities. The workshop will focus on two key areas of the original Horizon Project plan: education and entrepreneurial innovation.

Gerry Dick, president and managing editor, Grow Indiana Ventures, and creator and host of INside Indiana Business, will serve as the moderator for the event.

Here’s a rundown of the conference:

  • Morning session 1: “Horizon Project and HORIZON 2.0, The Next Phase of the Plan.” Featured speakers: Bill Johnson, Horizon Project chair 2002 – 2006, and Dan Boecher, HORIZON 2.0 incoming chairman. From 2002 to the present, Bill Johnson has been leading the charge of the Horizon Project, a comprehensive strategy for developing a successful economic formula Elkhart County. Johnson will review the original plan and offer thoughts on the drivers of the future. Boecher will launch the official kickoff of HORIZON 2.0, expanding from the foundation of the original plan.
  • Morning session 2: “Exploring Twenty-First Century Education Strategies.” Featured speakers: Bart Peterson, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communication at Eli Lilly and Co., former mayor of Indianapolis and founder and board president of the Mind Trust; and Bob Jorth, executive administrator, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Promise Scholarship. Peterson was the first mayor in the country to be given the authority to issue new charters for public schools. The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship covers four years of tuition and fees for Kalamazoo Public Schools students who attend college in Michigan.
  • Afternoon session: “Entrepreneurial Innovation for Community Revitalization.” Featured speaker: John Fetterman, Mayor of Braddock, Pa. Fetterman’s innovative approach to rebuilding Braddock — from the development of urban farms and community orchards to the production of public art and reclamation of abandoned buildings — attracted the attention of Rolling Stone, The New York Times and “The Colbert Report.” Braddock was recently named one of 27 “brave thinkers” by The Atlantic and graces this month’s cover.

“Bringing this many leaders together for one day will generate a lot of innovative ideas,” said Boecher. “But the conversation can’t end there. The goal of this initial workshop is to lay the groundwork for implementation. At the end of the day, we’ll figure out ways to gather the necessary resources and make it happen.”

The Indiana Humanities Council and the Bowen Center for Public Affairs at Ball State University will convene the workshop. Local support to launch Horizon 2.0 has been given by Elkhart County government, the cities of Goshen, Elkhart and Nappanee, the Elkhart County Community Foundation and the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Horizon 2.0 pulls key business, community, civic and media leaders together to transform Elkhart County by reshaping the educational and entrepreneurial future of the community. Learn more it at www.ElkhartCountyHorizonProject.org.