Topic: Building Better Communities

August 8, 2013

Building Better Communities, the outreach and engagement division at Ball State University, honored three Indiana communities Thursday for exceptional initiatives that have made them better places to live, visit and do business.

Columbus, Valparaiso and Walkerton each received BBC’s first Primacy of Place Community Awards, which were presented during an afternoon ceremony at Ball State’s Indianapolis Center.

The awards are part of a wider Primacy of Place initiative by BBC to help Indiana communities develop amenities and programs designed to improve the quality of life they offer. Primacy of Place is built on the idea that people are the most important ingredient of any economic development effort, and communities must do everything they can to attract and retain top talent, says John Fallon, associate vice president of economic development and community engagement.

Ball State chose Thursday’s award recipients from among 22 entries by communities in 18 counties from the shores of Lake Michigan in the north to the Ohio River in the south.

Columbus, a southern Indiana community of about 44,000, was honored for its work in developing the Columbus Arts District. The district, which includes more than 360 arts programs and cultural assets, was the result of extensive planning and public input, which was gathered through more than a year of town hall meetings, surveys and workshops. Estimates have placed the district’s annual economic impact at $214.5 million. The city says one of the area’s main purposes is to help attract and retain a diverse base of talented people to encourage continued economic growth.

Valparaiso, a city of some 31,000 residents in northeast Indiana, was cited for a variety of initiatives to improve quality of life. Those range from commissioning an Orville Redenbacher sculpture for the city’s Central Park Plaza, to a Fit City program that emphasizes hiking and other active recreation. Also mentioned were efforts to preserve hundreds of acres of parkland adjacent to the city, and a free outdoor sculpture exhibit called The Valparaiso Art Walk at Cumberland. In its entry, the city explained its initiatives by citing a recent article in Public Management magazine that estimates “the typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person per event, beyond the cost of admission, meals, ground transportation, shopping, lodging, and more.”

Walkerton, a town of about 2,100 residents near South Bend, was singled out for its work in transforming the old West York development from a blighted area of old plywood homes into an attractive, affordable neighborhood now known as Dogwood Estates. Beginning in 2009, town officials partnered with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to access a federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant, creating incentives for private sector investment in the area and kick starting the transformation of the area.

Thursday’s award ceremony was a prelude to a Primacy of Place Conference that BBC will host on Sept. 20 at the JW Marriot in Indianapolis. The conference is designed to bring together community members interested in learning more about the importance of human capital. Business and civic leaders are invited to attend and share knowledge on the importance of attracting and retaining talent. More information is available at