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The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 24, 2016 10:02 pm

East Allen towns offer unified plan

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

When state officials put out a call for economic development proposals that could benefit from Regional Cities Initiative grant money, some Allen County communities were caught empty-handed.

Kent Castleman is determined that won’t happen again.

Castleman is president of NewAllen Alliance, which facilitates collaboration among eastern Allen County’s seven communities: Grabill, Harlan, Hoagland, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville, New Haven and Woodburn.

"Three years ago, we got serious about how do we move the pendulum," Castleman said about leaders of the 25-year-old organization.

On Monday night, they gave the public a glimpse at the strategic plan for each of the seven communities. The process, which incorporated input from more than 800 individuals, was reviewed at Quixote Hills Reception Hall in Hoagland.

Churubusco-based Sturtz Public Management Group guided the effort. NewAllen Alliance paid the consultant with an appropriation of more than $80,000 from the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.

Leaders in each community want to improve quality of life through sustainable economic development.

"As we think about our relationship to Fort Wayne, Allen County and the northeast Indiana region, many of our communities offer a different lifestyle option to suburban or urban living," Castleman said in a statement. "We want to continue making sure our rural communities have a strong quality of life and quality of place so we can help attract talent to the region."

By working together, the communities can share training and other resources, he said.

Although some of the goals are specific to a community, others are priorities for most of the participants.

For example, each community plans to participate in a branding and marketing effort in collaboration with NewAllen Alliance. They will support rehabilitation of existing homes and the addition of affordable senior housing.

They also plan to support economic development initiatives that focus on agricultural. That could include agritourism, such as hayrides, corn mazes and farm stands selling fresh fruits, vegetables and other products.